The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, has called for increased entry to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant located in southern Ukraine. This request comes as both Moscow and Kyiv trade accusations of planning acts of sabotage at Europe’s largest nuclear power facility, which is under Russian control.
The IAEA expressed the need for additional access to the Zaporizhzhia plant to verify the absence of mines or explosives on the premises. Rafael Grossi, Director General of the IAEA, emphasized the importance of confirming the facts on the ground due to escalating military tension and activities in the surrounding region.
Amid accusations of sabotage between Moscow and Kyiv, the International Atomic Energy Agency has emphasized the need for increased access to the Zaporizhzhia atomic plant in southern Ukraine.#ZaporizhzhiaNuclearPowerPlant #Zaporizhzhia #Moscow #Ukraine #IAEA #Russia #Kyiv pic.twitter.com/snBKdipt1j
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) July 6, 2023
Although recent inspections conducted by IAEA staff did not uncover any visible signs of mines or explosives, further access to specific areas, such as the rooftops of reactor units 3 and 4, turbine halls, and sections of the cooling system, would help provide clarity amid circulating unconfirmed allegations and counter-allegations.
IAEA experts at 🇺🇦’s #Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant have inspected parts of the facility – including sections of the perimeter of the large cooling pond – so far without observing any visible signs of mines or explosives, but additional access is neededhttps://t.co/UlWeMsaFdU pic.twitter.com/Fpq124tDap
— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency ⚛️ (@iaeaorg) July 5, 2023
Allegations Fly as Ukraine and Russia Trade Accusations over Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant
Amidst escalating tensions, Ukraine and Russia have exchanged accusations regarding an alleged plot to attack the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. Both sides, however, have failed to provide concrete evidence to substantiate their claims of an imminent threat to the facility. Under Russian control since March 2022 following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhia plant has become a focal point of contention.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, citing intelligence reports, claimed on Tuesday that Russian forces had placed objects resembling explosives on the power units of the plant, aiming to stage an attack and falsely attribute it to Ukraine. The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces stated that detonating these objects would not harm the power units but could create an illusion of shelling from Ukraine.
Tensions Mount as Moscow Explores Various Scenarios
On Wednesday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his accusations against Russia, claiming that Moscow was planning to orchestrate an incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, drawing parallels to the recent destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam. Zelensky addressed university students and staff in Argentina, emphasizing that Russian forces had ” mined ” the nuclear plant. He asserted that Moscow was considering different scenarios, including man-made disasters, for their own strategic objectives. Zelensky focused on preventing catastrophic outcomes rather than speculating on the likelihood of specific scenarios.
In response, Russian authorities alleged that Kyiv was also plotting sabotage at the Zaporizhzhia plant. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the threat of sabotage from the Kyiv regime was significant and could lead to catastrophic consequences. Peskov emphasized that Russia took all necessary measures to counter the perceived Ukrainian threat.
Renat Karchaa, an advisor to Russia’s state nuclear company Rosenergoatom, which controls the Zaporizhzhia plant, refuted Zelensky’s claims of a Moscow-led plot to simulate an explosion at the facility. Karchaa dismissed the notion of explosives at the plant and deemed Zelensky’s statements baseless, aimed at maintaining tension. Previously, Karchaa had made televised remarks alleging that Ukraine’s military was planning an attack on the plant using ammunition containing nuclear waste, but no such incident occurred.
Suspicions of a Manipulated Incident Emerge
Ongoing power outages from shelling near the Zaporizhzhia plant have rendered the site unsafe for operations, leading to the shutdown of its six reactors since September as a precaution against potential disasters. In the past year, the IAEA has repeatedly expressed concerns about the risk of a radiation catastrophe akin to the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. Recent claims from Ukraine suggest that Moscow might attempt a deliberate leak at the nuclear plant to disrupt Kyiv’s ongoing counteroffensive in the surrounding Zaporizhia region.
Al Jazeera‘s correspondent, Rob McBride, reporting from Kyiv, stated that Ukraine has warned about the possibility of a “false flag” operation orchestrated by Russia. The alleged plan involved putting explosives on the roof of the Zaporizhzhia plant to falsely attribute the attack to Ukrainian forces. Conversely, the Kremlin has accused Kyiv of intending to strike the nuclear facility using long-range precision weapons.
Both sides have drawn comparisons between the situation at Zaporizhzhia and the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, each blaming the other. According to McBride, Moscow claims that the dam’s collapse showcases Kyiv’s capabilities, while President Zelensky asserts that the international community’s failure to hold Russia accountable for the dam’s destruction has emboldened them to target the nuclear plant.
With tensions escalating at Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health has warned residents to be prepared for possible evacuations in the event of a significant radiation leak. Ukrainian emergency workers recently conducted a drill to enhance preparedness for a potential radiation release from the plant. In the event of a nuclear disaster, approximately 300,000 individuals residing in the areas closest to the facility would be evacuated, as per the country’s emergency services.
Precautions and Guidelines in Case of Emergency
Ukrainian officials have assured that the shutdown reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are safeguarded by robust concrete containment domes, providing enhanced protection. Experts have corroborated these claims, stating that the plant’s design can withstand barrages and potential threats.
In light of potential emergencies, Ukraine’s health ministry recently issued guidelines to the public, emphasizing preparedness. The ministry urged residents to assemble emergency bags, including essential supplies such as face masks and packaged food. In the event of an officially announced radiation emergency, the ministry advised individuals to either stay indoors or evacuate promptly. It further stressed the importance of staying updated with official announcements and adhering to the instructions provided.