Grossi says Zaporizhzhia principles 'step in right direction'

31 May 2023

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has outlined to the UN Security Council five principles - "the bare minimum" - to help protect Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The discussion took place in New York on Tuesday (Image: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Grossi addressed the United Nations Security Council on the situation at the six-unit nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Ukraine, and Europe. It has been under Russian military control since the start of March 2022 and is on the frontline of Russian and Ukrainian forces. During the conflict it has been damaged by shelling, which both sides blame on the other, and has lost external power on seven separate occasions.

For months Grossi had sought to get the two sides in the conflict to agree on the idea of a demilitarised safety and security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), but getting the two sides to agree on the details, amidst the war, proved impossible. Instead, as a result of consultations with the two sides in the conflict, he said "I have identified the following concrete principles to help ensure nuclear safety and security at ZNPP in order to prevent a nuclear accident and ensure the integrity of the plant":

  • There should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant, in particular targeting the reactors, used fuel storage, other critical infrastructure, or personnel
  • ZNPP should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons (i.e. multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and munitions, and tanks) or military personnel that could be used for an attack from the plant
  • Off-site power to the plant should not be put at risk. To that effect, all efforts should be made to ensure that off-site power remains available and secure at all times
  • All structures, systems and components essential to the safe and secure operation of ZNPP should be protected from attacks or acts of sabotage
  • No action should be taken that undermines these principles

Grossi said that backing for the five points means that the IAEA experts on the site - the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya - will now broaden their remit to include reporting to him on the observance of these principles, adding that he would publicly report any breaches of them.

"I respectfully and solemnly ask both sides to observe these five principles. I request distinguished Members of the Security Council to unambiguously support them ... these principles are to no one’s detriment and to everyone’s benefit. Avoiding a nuclear accident is possible," he said.

Speaking to reporters after the UN Security Council session, Grossi said he was not being guilty of "naive optimism" but, at a time when there is increasing talk of more military action in the area, he did believe that this was a "step in the right direction" and although the agreement covered only the "bare minimum" they would "continue talking, consulting" and would seek to "consolidate what we got today".

Taking questions, Grossi said that the IAEA team at the nuclear power plant had not seen evidence of heavy military equipment there and he said that he plans to have more talks with the two sides, and to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant for a third time.

He added that "history proves that at times of war" there is no guarantee that principles will be "scrupulously respected" but the agreement "deepens and strengthens" the IAEA's power in terms of being able to "report immediately ... so the international community would know from an authoritative source, what is happening and we believe this is a deterrent factor".

For Russia, Vassily Nebenzia said Grossi’s proposals for the plant’s safety were in line with measures the Russian Federation has been implementing and said that no attacks had been carried out from the territory of the plant and no heavy weapons or munitions had ever been placed there.

For Ukraine, Sergiy Kyslytsya said Russia had mined the plant’s perimeter and said its military activities had  regularly lead to the loss of off-site power. He suggested that the five principles should include "the withdrawal of troops and all other Russian personnel illegally present at the station".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News