Russian seizure of Chernobyl 1st military clash in nuke disaster area - IAEA chief

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi: "The safety and security of nuclear facilities, and nuclear and other radioactive material, in Ukraine must under no circumstances be endangered."

The remnants of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The remnants of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi on Wednesday told the IAEA Board of Governors that Russia's seizure of the Chernobyl area is extremely dangerous and the first time in history when military altercations have taken place in a nuclear disaster area.

"The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented and I continue to be gravely concerned. It is the first time a military conflict is happening amid the facilities of a large, established nuclear power program, which in this case also include the site of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant," he said.

Grossi continued, "The safety and security of nuclear facilities, and nuclear and other radioactive material, in Ukraine must under no circumstances be endangered. I have called for restraint from all measures or actions that could jeopardize the security of nuclear and other radioactive material, and the safe operation of any nuclear facilities in Ukraine, because any such incident could have severe consequences, aggravating human suffering and causing environmental harm."

Also, he said that, "Russia has informed the [IAEA] that its military forces have taken control of the territory around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).

In an official letter, Grossi said that the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna told him that personnel at the plant continued their “work on providing nuclear safety and monitoring radiation in normal mode of operation. The radiation levels remain normal.”

 INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC Energy Agency director-general Rafael Grossi at an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, September 13. (credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters) INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC Energy Agency director-general Rafael Grossi at an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, September 13. (credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

On Tuesday, Ukraine had informed the IAEA that all its nuclear power plants remained under the control of the national operator and that the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) maintained communications with the country’s nuclear facilities and that the NPPs continued to operate normally.

The Zaporizhzhia plant is the largest of Ukraine’s NPP sites with six out of the country’s 15 nuclear energy reactors, said the IAEA.

Grossi reported that the acting chief state inspector of SNRIU had requested that the IAEA "provide immediate assistance in coordinating activities in relation to the safety of the Chernobyl NPP and other nuclear facilities," and that he"will be holding consultations and maintain contacts in order to address this request."

He also said that operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure.