Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Seized by Russia ‘Completely Out of Control’

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi warned this week that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine has “gotten completely out of control” since it was seized by Russia in March.

Grossi said that “every principle of nuclear safety has been violated.” He cited an entire “catalog of things that should never be happening in any nuclear facility.” The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is the largest currently in operation anywhere in Europe.

 

The plant continues to be operated by its Ukrainian crew even though Russia now physically controls the facility. Grossi reported that the two groups have not been cooperating effectively.

The IAEA has been working to maintain regular communications with the Ukrainian and Russian personnel operating the facility. The agency says that it has only been able to have “patchy” talks with the Ukrainians responsible for day-to-day operations.

There have been no assurances that the workers have or are receiving the supplies they need to safely operate the plant systems.

The Zaporizhzhia plant is located in Enerhodar, a populous city in the southeastern part of Ukraine. Artillery fire has been common in and around the city since the Russian invasion began. Ukrainian and western officials have said that Russia is using the area surrounding the plant as a buffer zone against combat operations.

Joe Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that there are credible reports that Russia is using the nuclear plant as “the equivalent of a human shield.” He said Russia is firing on Ukrainians around the plant, knowing that there will not be return fire that could create a nuclear disaster.

Meanwhile, Russia is accusing the Ukrainians of using weapons supplied by the U.S. around the plant in a similar manner.

Grossi said that current combat conditions are making a site visit by IAEA officials extremely difficult. He said that his agency needs to visit the plant as it did at Chernobyl to ascertain what is actually taking place and to carry out inspections.

He was referencing the 1986 disaster at the Soviet Chernobyl nuclear power plant near the city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine. That event is one of only two nuclear accidents to grade at the maximum level on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES).

Grossi said that if the IAEA can establish a presence at Zaporizhzhia, it will act as a further deterrent to acts of violence against the facility. He said that he is now pleading with both sides to be allowed to proceed as an international civil servant.