Delegates Urge Russian Federation to Withdraw Troops from Plant, Support Calls for International Atomic Energy Agency Inspection of Site
The United Nations remains gravely concerned about the dangerous situation in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council today in a meeting requested by the Russian Federation and marked by emphatic calls to cease all military activities at the site.
“The Secretary-General has appealed to all concerned to exercise common sense and reason and to refrain from undertaking any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant — Europe's largest,” Ms. DiCarlo said. Voicing regret at near daily reports of alarming incidents involving the plant, she said preparations for an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to carry out essential safety, security and safeguards activities at the site are proceeding and the Agency is in active consultations with all parties.
The United Nations has the logistics and security capacity in Ukraine to support any IAEA mission to the plant from Kyiv, provided Ukraine and the Russian Federation agree, she pointed out, calling for the mission’s immediate, secure and unfettered access to the site. “Agreement is urgently needed to re-establish Zaporizhzhia as purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area,” she said, warning that a nuclear incident in Zaporizhzhia, or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, would have catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity but for the region and beyond.
In the ensuing debate, delegates echoed calls for the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops and for an IAEA site visit as soon as possible, with Gabon’s representative pointing out that it is unacceptable to “wait and speculate” on the potential risk of an accident, with consequences for the environment and human health. It is time to bring peace to the top of the agenda, he insisted, encouraging all diplomatic efforts to silence the guns and reach an agreement for lasting peace.
The speaker for the United States said the Russian Federation must follow the Secretary-General’s recommendation to establish a demilitarized zone in the area surrounding the plant, a move that would allow Ukrainian personnel, currently held under duress, to operate the facility, assess damage and restore its impeccable safety, security and safeguards performance.
Mexico’s delegate pointed out that the negotiation of the grain agreements is credible proof of what can be achieved when there is political will and when reason prevails. “We hope that this can happen once again when it comes to reaching an agreement over Zaporizhzhia when what is at stake is no more or no less the right to life,” he said.
Some delegates, including from Norway, Ireland and United Kingdom, voiced concern about possible efforts to disconnect the power plant from the Ukraine electrical grid, and the further immense suffering that would cause the people of Ukraine.
Likewise, China’s representative underscored that there is no room for trial and error when it comes to the safety and security of such facilities. He called for an Agency site visit as soon as possible, stressing that the international community must not allow the tragedies of the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants to be repeated.
The Russian Federation’s delegate said Ukrainian armed forces continue to shell the area of Zaporizhzhia and the city of Energodar almost daily, creating a genuine risk of a radiation accident with catastrophic consequences for all of Europe. Catastrophes have so far been avoided only due to the well-coordinated work of the plant workers, fire and emergency crews and Russian Federation military personnel. Nonetheless, he expected that the IAEA mission will still take place in the near future.
Ukraine’s representative retorted that: "Once again, the Russian Federation has the audacity to convene a Council meeting to discuss its own provocations and its own terror at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.” No one can imagine that Ukraine would target a nuclear plant at tremendous risk of a nuclear catastrophe on its own territory. The IAEA mission to the plant must take place at the request of Ukraine and be covered by the agreement on the obligation of safeguards between Ukraine and IAEA, he said, stressing that the Russian Federation must ensure the mission team’s physical security.
Also speaking today were representatives of United Arab Emirates, Ghana, India, France, Kenya, Brazil and Albania.
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 4:22 p.m.