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UN "Gravely Concerned" After Russia Seizes Territory Around Europe's Largest Nuclear Power Plant

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockMar 3 2022, 14:23 UTC
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Zaporizhzhia power plant

Zaporizhzhia is Europe's largest nuclear power plant. Russia now has it surrounded. Image credit: Ihor Bondarenko/Shutterstock.com

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that they are "gravely concerned" after Russian invading forces seized territory around the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

After taking control of Chernobyl last week, Russia have informed the IAEA that they have seized territory surrounding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. So far, the operation is still said to be "normal" at the plant, though the New York Times reports that three out of the plant's six reactors are currently not generating electricity.

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Russia informed the IAEA that radiation levels remained normal at the plant, and that they would “work on providing nuclear safety and monitoring radiation in normal mode of operation". However, the IAEA are concerned about the continued safety and security at Ukraine's power plants, as well as the safety of the staff at the facilities.

"The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented and I continue to be gravely concerned," Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement. "It is the first time a military conflict is happening amidst the facilities of a large, established nuclear power programme, which in this case also include the site of the 1986 accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant."

"While we may use expressions like 'normal operations' in a technical context," he added, "I want to emphasise there is nothing normal about the circumstances under which the professionals at Ukraine’s four Nuclear Power Plants are managing to keep the reactors that produce half of Ukraine’s electricity working."

The IAEA asked that all states reaffirm their commitment to upholding international laws preventing attacks or threats against peaceful nuclear facilities, and urged Russia to allow Ukraine to operate the power plants uninterrupted.

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"This is particularly critical during an armed conflict, which heightens the risk of nuclear accidents, and makes the response more difficult."

The IAEA will continue to monitor the situation, as they did when increased levels of radiation were detected around Chernobyl last week.

"Let me end by saying this," Grossi concluded. "The best action to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and its people would be for this armed conflict to end now."


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