Earlier this week, the world’s foremost atomic energy official warned that a Ukrainian nuclear facility’s operations have been seriously compromised since Russia seized the plant in March.
On Tuesday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi called the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “completely out of control,” and said proper precautions were not being taken at the facility.
“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated,” Grossi said in an interview Tuesday. “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous.”
The Zaporizhzhia facility was seized by Russia in March, and has remained under Russian control since then.
Part of the problem, Grossi said, is the plant’s “paradoxical situation” in which Russia controls the plant, but the original Ukrainian staff continues to run everything. The IAEA chief said this testy setup has reportedly led to conflict, and even violence, within the facility.
Grossi also said his agency has only been able to have “patchy” communication with the Ukrainian crew, and that the IAEA needs to visit the site for an evaluation and repairs.
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“When you put this together, you have a catalog of things that should never be happening in any nuclear facility,” Grossi said. “And this is why I have been insisting from day one that we have to be able to go there to perform this safety and security evaluation, to do the repairs and to assist as we already did in Chernobyl.”
Earlier this year, the IAEA conducted “an assistance mission” at Chernobyl — the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster — in order to assess the area’s safety and neutralize any danger, Grossi said. Now, the agency needs to conduct a similar evaluation at Zaporizhzhia.
Since Russia’s takeover of the facility, U.S. officials have warned that Russia intends to use the plant, which is located in the Ukrainian city Enerhodar, as “the equivalent of a human shield.”
“There are credible reports, including in the media, that Russia is using this plant as the equivalent of a human shield, but a nuclear shield in the sense that it’s firing on Ukrainians from around the plant and, of course, the Ukrainians cannot and will not fire back, lest there be a terrible accident involving a nuclear plant,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week.