UN energy chief calls for nuclear protection zone in Ukraine

Following another blackout at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has appealed for a protection zone around the plant, warning of the dangers of complacency.

ZNPP, which has been held by Russia, can run off diesel generators for 10 days. Nuclear plants need constant power to run cooling systems and avoid a meltdown, and fears remain about the possibility of a catastrophe at Zaporizhzhia.

Russian forces pounded several Ukrainian cities last week, knocking out electricity and forcing Europe’s largest nuclear plant off the grid for a sixth time since Moscow’s invasion began last year.

IAEA director general Rafael Grossi (pic) said that the loss of all external power “once again demonstrated how fragile and dangerous the situation is for the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant”.

“That very much remains the case, also after the 750 kilovolt line was reconnected yet again. Experience tells us that this will most likely happen again, and again, unless we do something to prevent it.”

He earlier told the IAEA board that the current situation was untenable: “Each time we are rolling a dice. And if we allow this to continue time after time then one day our luck will run out.”

Grossi said action was needed now to commit to protect the nuclear safety and security of the plant and he would continue his urgent consultations and contacts.

Further underlining the precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the ZNPP, the IAEA team at the plant said strong shelling has been heard nearby, the latest indication of increased military activities in the region.

In the last two weeks, the IAEA said it has arranged three deliveries of equipment to Ukraine as part of the overall efforts to organise technical support and assistance to the country in nuclear safety and security. 

The Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, the State Regulatory Body, the South Ukraine NPP and the State Register of Ionizing Radiation Sources and Individual Radiation Doses received personal protective suits, respiratory masks, potassium iodine pills, dosimeters as well as IT equipment donated from Canada and Switzerland.