What's In Blue

Posted Thu 11 Aug 2022

Ukraine: Briefing on Zaporizhzhia

This afternoon (11 August), the Security Council will hold an open briefing on the situation in Ukraine under the agenda item “threats to international peace and security”. The meeting, which was requested by Russia, is expected to focus on recent security incidents (5-7 August) at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in the city of Enerhodar. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is expected to brief. Ukraine will participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

This will be the Council’s second formal meeting on the safety of nuclear sites in Ukraine, specifically focused on the ZNPP. The first meeting, requested by the UK, together with Albania, Ireland, France, Norway, and the US, took place on 4 March, following reports that Russian troops had shelled and fired projectiles at the plant the previous day.

Russia and Ukraine have exchanged accusations regarding the nature of the recent security incidents at the plant. Russia has blamed Ukrainian forces for launching strikes against the ZNPP, which have caused damage to its dry spent fuel storage facility and surrounding administrative buildings. Ukraine has denied Russia’s accusations. It blames Russian forces for the attacks on the plant, while claiming that these forces have moved military equipment inside ZNPP in violation of several nuclear safety protocols. Russian forces have had control over the ZNPP since March, while Ukrainian technicians continue to operate the facility.

Speaking to the media during a visit to Japan on 8 August, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the recent attacks on the ZNPP and expressed hope that the IAEA will be able to gain access to the plant for inspections. On 11 August, the Secretary-General issued another statement calling for a cessation of all military activities in the plant’s vicinity. Furthermore, he expressed support for the work of the IAEA and urged the parties to provide it with secure access to the plant.

On 9 August, Russia issued a statement claiming that arrangements for an IAEA visit had been set in early June and that the UN Department of Safety and Security had blocked the visit “at the very last moment”. The statement urged Guterres to recognise “the responsibility that rests upon him” and refrain “from creating obstacles for the IAEA mission”. Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric denied these claims at a 9 August press briefing, stressing that Guterres has been “committed to helping the IAEA…since the beginning”. The IAEA has not been able to access the ZNPP since Russia launched its military offensive against Ukraine on 24 February.

In a 9 August statement, Grossi expressed grave concern over the situation at the ZNPP and emphasised the importance of sending an IAEA expert mission to the site to help facilitate nuclear safety and security. According to information provided to the IAEA by Ukraine, although the shelling caused damage near the dry spent fuel storage facility, critical infrastructure was not affected. Grossi asserted that there was no immediate threat to nuclear safety, according to the assessments made by IAEA experts after reviewing information provided by Ukraine.

A potential visit to the ZNPP is complicated by the precarious security situation around the plant and the lack of agreement between Ukraine and Russia on the modalities for such a visit. Speaking to the media at the opening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at the UN on 1 August, Grossi emphasised that an IAEA visit would require cooperation from both Ukraine and Russia, as well as support by the UN.

At the meeting this afternoon, Grossi is expected to reiterate the importance of ensuring safe and unimpeded access to the site for an IAEA expert team. He may also provide the latest information available to the IAEA on the current situation at the ZNPP.

Council members are likely to express a common position on the importance of ensuring the safety of the ZNPP, which is the largest nuclear power station in Europe, and of nuclear facilities more generally. Several Council members may also express support for an IAEA visit to the site.

Council members are expected to diverge in their view of the current situation at the ZNPP. The US and European Council members are expected to condemn the seizure of Ukrainian nuclear facilities by Russian forces and to call on Russia to hand back control of the ZNPP to Ukraine. They may also express their support for an IAEA mission to the ZNPP, while emphasising respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty over its territory and nuclear facilities.

Russia is likely to accuse Ukrainian forces of jeopardising the safety of the ZNPP. It is expected to reiterate that it supports an IAEA visit to the plant and to claim obstruction by Kyiv and the UN Secretariat in this regard. Russia may call on the Secretary-General and Western countries to help ensure that arrangements are made for the IAEA visit to the nuclear plant.

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