At the heart of all the tensions, the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant will be visited by a group of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Their goal is to inspect the infrastructure of the plant where six of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors are located, which has been attacked by Russia for six months. Occupied by Moscow, the plant is in danger between bombing, the risk of lack of water to ensure its cooling or its disconnection from the electricity grid. 20 minutes provides an update on the IAEA’s mission.
Why are UN experts going to the Zaporozhye power plant?
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been concerned for months about the situation at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. Caught in the crossfire, the latter has been occupied since early March, shortly after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The director general of the IAEA has been asking for months to go there, warning of the “real risk of nuclear catastrophe”. Concern is global as Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of bombing the plant. G7 countries said on Monday they were “deeply concerned” about the risk of a nuclear accident in Zaporozhye, calling for full freedom of movement to be granted to international experts.
“Russia must ensure safe and unfettered access” to the IAEA team, an American official admitted, for whom the “safest” option is a “controlled” shutdown of reactors. Evidence of the depressing atmosphere around the plant, the town hall of Zaporozhye said since August 23 that it distributed iodine tablets to the population within a radius of 50 km around the plant, to be taken in the event of any radiation alert. .
When will the IAEA mission arrive?
“The day has come,” the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Monday. According to Rafael Grossi, the mission should visit “later this week” nuclear facilities and have at least ten people. “We must protect the security of Ukraine and the largest power plant in Europe,” he wrote on Twitter. Before moving, the IAEA had to negotiate with both camps and, when kyiv requested this visit, Moscow was reluctant. Faced with this “dangerous” situation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday urged the UN nuclear police to send a team as soon as possible.
Russian President Vladimir Putin finally agreed to the organization of a mission that would pass “through Ukraine” and not through Russia, which he had previously requested, allowing the visit of UN experts. Russia now considers the inspection “necessary”, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Beyond the demands of the combatants, this is a dangerous mission for UN experts. “This mission is the most difficult in the history of the IAEA because of the combat activity that Russia is doing on the ground,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba said Monday during a trip to Stockholm. .
Between Thursday and Friday, the plant and its six reactors of 1,000 megawatts each were “completely disconnected” from the national grid due to damage to power lines, according to kyiv, before being reconnected and restarted. . “The plant’s infrastructure has been damaged and there is a risk of leaking hydrogen and spraying radioactive substances,” Energoatom warned on Saturday. In addition, according to the operator, “ten residents were injured”, including four employees of the plant, in the bombings of the past twenty-four hours in Energodar, a locality where the plant depends.
Can we hope for a reduction in tension after this review?
An AEIA inspection will certify nuclear power plant facilities. However, this did not reduce tensions, as Kyiv launched its major counter-offensive in the south of the country. Ukraine has accused Russian forces of stockpiling heavy weapons and ammunition and of having a garrison of 500 soldiers at the nuclear site. The Kremlin, for its part, ensured that it had only personnel in charge of security and on Monday called on the international community to put “pressure” on Ukraine to reduce tensions around the nuclear power plant.
After several strikes at the site caused a temporary cut of the power plant from the electricity network last week, the Ukrainian operator Energoatom estimated on Saturday that there was a risk of “spray of radioactive substances”. In Zaporozhye itself, emergency services are already conducting exercises to evacuate residents and train to decontaminate radioactive dust. Nearly two tons of special decontamination solutions are stored in city facilities.
The visit of UN experts does not seem to reassure the residents who continue to examine with concern the environment of the plant that houses six of the 15 Ukrainian reactors. “You know, we experienced the Chernobyl accident, the threat is very big (…) now, the threat is total, 100%”, blew Kateryna, a 68-year-old retiree, who still suffering from thyroid problems after 1986 “That’s my prediction: six reactors instead of one,” he said, referring to the capacity of the Zaporozhye plant, compared to the one reactor damaged by the disaster of Chernobyl, which is on everyone’s mind.