Artillery vehicle

Russia accused of using Ukraine nuclear power plant as artillery base, sparking disaster fears

The United States has now accused Russian forces of using the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, as a “nuclear shield”, prompting senior United Nations officials to insist that the situation at the plant becomes “out of control”. Russia had already drawn heavy criticism after bombings began near the plant in March, when the country moved to seize it in the first weeks of its invasion of Ukraine. Now it would appear that the facility’s extensive use as an artillery fire base has put it in grave danger.

According Reuters, during a press conference on August 1 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that the actions carried out by Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia, in the city of Enerhodar, in the southeast, are “the height of irresponsibility”. This statement followed Blinken’s accusation that the invading country had used the factory as a military base to carry out artillery strikes against Ukrainian forces. Firing munitions like rockets, missiles and mortars nearby from a nuclear power plant is already generally dangerous, but doing so from such a position also prevents Ukrainian forces from launching a counterattack.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant located in the Russian-controlled area of ​​Enerhodar. Credit: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

However, Russia categorically denies these accusations. The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations issued a statement shortly after Blinken’s press conference, saying that the actions of the Russian armed forces in no way compromise Ukraine’s nuclear security or impede the functioning plant routine. The statement goes on to say that Zaporizhzhia is currently under Russian control but that its seizure took place for the sole purpose “to prevent Ukrainian nationalist formations and foreign mercenaries from using the current situation in Ukraine to carry out a nuclear provocation with consequences. the most unpredictable.

“There are no armed formations at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant [nuclear power plant], with the exception of a limited number of military personnel, which is necessary to ensure the safety and security of the plant,” the statement read. “Over the past few months, the Ukrainian armed formations have organized a series of provocations that used drones (that is, those delivered by NATO states) and aimed at sabotaging the normal operation of the power plant nuclear power plant, frighten its personnel, compromise the security of the power plant and ultimately create the threat of nuclear disaster.

To better understand the Ukrainian side of the issue, The war zone contacted Olena Pareniuk, senior researcher at the Ukrainian Institute for Safety Issues of Nuclear Power Plants, who provided valuable information on the current environment of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear site. Pareniuk has spent several years of his career studying and investigating the aftermath of nuclear disasters, including the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in 1986 and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant tragedy in 2011. You can read more about his experiences and thoughts on the dangers posed to Ukraine’s nuclear infrastructure due to Russia’s invasion in the past. war zone piece here.

“The situation is definitely not normal,” Pareniuk wrote in his response to The war zone. “But the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] refuses to do anything other than voice their concerns. And moreover, they insist on a visit to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant which will allow Russia to legitimize its presence on the nuclear power plant. Ukraine will continue to deny the IAEA mission to the ZNPP until it is back under our control.

Importantly, during the press conference, Blinken also affirmed his belief that the IAEA should have access to the plant, and IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi noted that not to do so would be an example of unacceptable inaction. Pareniuk’s view of the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant only deviated from the Russian Federation’s statement denying Blinken’s accusations. She says Russian military equipment located at the plant is a major threat.

“There are at least 14 military/armoured and explosive vehicles inside the engine room of the nuclear power plant, very close to the reactor,” Pareniuk wrote. “More than 100 [NPP] staff were abducted and tortured, five are still missing. If it explodes, it can cause serious damage to the reactor and cause a leak of radioactivity.

This sentiment was echoed by Grossi in an interview with the Associated press where the IAEA director told the media that “all nuclear safety principles have been violated” and that “what is at stake is extremely serious and extremely serious and dangerous”.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi waves to international press and media during his press briefing as he shows a map of the situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in March. Credit: Dean Calma/IAEA

Grossi and the IAEA as a whole have implored Russia and Ukraine to urgently grant nuclear experts access to the plant in an attempt to stabilize the situation as much as possible before it is too late. . Beyond that, Grossi noted that “uneven” contact between the IAEA and the Zaporizhzhia plant, the disruption of the equipment and spare parts supply chain, and the lack of routine inspections Regular shifts have also contributed to the precariousness taking place at the factory.

At this point, an IAEA visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant would require the cooperation of Ukrainian and Russian forces in the interests of global security. The IAEA and the UN treat the controlled and regulated operation of nuclear power plants as a non-political matter, but belligerent countries should put aside their hostilities to make such a concession.

“If an accident occurs at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, we will not have a natural disaster to blame – we will only have to answer to ourselves,” Rossi told the UN conference. “We need everyone’s support.”

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