G7 demands Russia hand over Zaporizhzhia, Russia calls for UN meeting

10 August 2022

Russia has asked for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to brief an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Meanwhile G7 foreign ministers have demanded Russia "hand back full control" of the plant "to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine".

Two of the six units, pictured before the war began (Image: Energoatom)

The UN Security Council meeting, which will take place from 15:00 New York time (19:00 GMT), follows shelling of the site on Friday and Saturday. The nuclear power plant has been under Russian military control since early in March, although it is still operated by its Ukrainian staff.

Ukraine and Russia have each blamed the other side for the shelling at the plant. Grossi has repeatedly warned, since the Russian military took over the plant in March, about the growing risks of the situation, and warned against any military presence or military action in or near nuclear power plants, and repeatedly stated the need for IAEA inspectors and experts to be given access to help ensure its continued safe operation.

In an IAEA update on Tuesday, Grossi said Ukraine had told him the shelling had injured a Ukrainian security guard and had "damaged walls, a roof and windows in the area of the spent fuel storage facility, as well as communication cables that are part of its radiation control system, with a possible impact on the functioning for three radiation detection sensors". 

The statement added: "But there was no visible damage to the containers with spent nuclear fuel or to the protective perimeter of the facility … based on the information provided by Ukraine, IAEA experts assessed that there was no immediate threat to nuclear safety as a result of Saturday’s incident, Director General Grossi said".

The IAEA said that the shelling contravened its "indispensable pillars" for nuclear safety and said its communications with Zaporizhzhia were "very limited and fragmentary". Grossi repeated the urgent need for an IAEA expert mission "as soon as possible to help stabilise the nuclear safety and security situation". 

On Tuesday, the head of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, Oleg Korikov, held a meeting with the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Ukraine, Christopher W Smith to discuss the on-going occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by Russian forces suggesting "a transitional solution could be to take the Zaporizhzhia NPP under the control of an international mission (with the participation of the UN, IAEA, other international organisations), which could return the plant to a safe mode of operation, and later - under the control of Ukraine".

Russia said that the shelling was by Ukrainian forces and its mission to the United Nations said in a tweet that because of the "potential catastrophic consequences of those actions, Russia calls for a UN Security Council meeting on 11 August in the afternoon under agenda item ‘Threats to international peace and security’." Russia says that it has been supporting the idea of an IAEA mission to the plant and has said it is urging the UN Secretary General to help ensure it takes place as swiftly as possible.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the foreign ministers of the G7 countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and USA - said "we demand that Russia immediately hand back full control to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine, of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as well as of all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders to ensure their safe and secure operations ...  it is Russia’s continued control of the plant that endangers the region".

It added: "We underline the importance of facilitating a mission of IAEA experts to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to address nuclear safety, security and safeguard concerns, in a manner that respects full Ukrainian sovereignty over its territory and infrastructure."

World Nuclear Association, which represents the global nuclear industry, issued a statement condemning the shelling and called "on all parties to immediately cease all hostilities in the vicinity of the plant. The use of a civilian nuclear energy facility for military operations in unconscionable ... we would like to express our continued appreciation for the professionalism and dedication demonstrated by the workers at the plant, despite the very difficult conditions in which they are forced to perform their duties."

The Security Council is made up of 15 members. The permanent members are China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA. There are also 10 non-permanent members, each elected for two-year terms. They are currently: Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway and UAE.

Zaporizhzhia is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, with six units.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News