With Ukraine nuke plant in peril, UN tries to broker safety

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday he had met the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia in an effort to establish a safe and secure zone around a nuclear plant. in southeastern Ukraine, the largest in Europe. The Zaporizhzhia power plant has faced near-daily shelling and shelling, raising fears of a nuclear accident.

Rafael Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that as a result of private meetings with Dmytro Kuleba of Ukraine and Sergey Lavrov of Russia, work on establishing and shaping the region has begun. . He said he hopes to visit Kyiv soon and “perhaps then” to Russia.

“Given the urgency of the situation and the gravity of what was happening on the ground, we had to move quickly,” Grossi said. Both countries, he said, share “the belief that the establishment of the region is indispensable.”

“The fact that the two foreign ministers sat down with me and listened to our opinions, I think it’s a good sign that there is a very, very solid basis for this to happen,” he said.

Grossi said negotiating a safe zone is complex and issues need to be addressed including plant protection, how the zone will be implemented and how an agreement will be enforced.

The head of the IAEA said the Zaporizhzhia plant was hit by artillery and attacks earlier on Wednesday, and a “shell” hit a pipeline in a cooled spent nuclear fuel tank. , and it stopped working. Technical experts were able to use other available capacity to continue pumping water into the pool, he said, stressing that this was just one example of the serious problems at the facility. when external power is continuously restored and disconnected.

Over the past weeks, Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for shelling at and near the plant.

“Nobody could run a plant like this under normal circumstances with all these problems,” Grossi said. “We are playing with fire and continue to play with fire.”

The Russian military seized the Zaporizhzhia plant southeast of the city of Enerhodar, in early March, shortly after the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but its nuclear operations continue to be run by the Russian military. Ukrainian staff.

Grossi led an IAEA team that visited Zaporizhzhia at the end of August and proposed the establishment of a safe zone shortly thereafter. He left two IAEA experts at the plant to monitor the situation and said the IAEA is in regular contact with them to try to ensure that their working conditions are as good as possible, but stressed that “we are” is in an unusual situation.”

The Russian occupation of Zaporizhzhia raised concerns that the largest of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors could be damaged, triggering another emergency such as the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the the world’s worst nuclear, occurred about 110 kilometers (65 mi) north of Kyiv.

Grossi was also asked about the IAEA’s dealings with Iran and its latest report earlier this month said it believes Iran has increased its stockpile of highly-enriched uranium by a short step, technically compared to weapon level.

The nuclear agency has expressed growing concern over Tehran’s failure to engage with an artificial uranium nuclear probe found at three undeclared sites in the country that has become a focal point in its recovery efforts. 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

Grossi said there is a lot that Iran has observed, but “there are three big question marks” that need to be answered and “will not be ignored.”

“I hope in the next few days I can re-establish some contact so that we can continue with this long process,” he said.

When asked why he didn’t meet the Iranian leader who is attending UN events this week, he replied: “Well, maybe you should ask them.”

Speaking at a meeting of General Assembly leaders, Iran’s President on Wednesday stressed that his country is serious about restoring an agreement to prevent it from buying nuclear bombs. But Ebrahim Raisi questions whether Tehran can count on America’s commitment to any eventual deal. The United States withdrew from an earlier agreement in 2018 under President Donald Trump.

Edith M. Lederer is the AP’s chief UN correspondent and has covered international affairs for more than half a century. For more information on the AP about the UN General Assembly, visit

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