Saturday

4th Feb 2023

Nuclear chief on Zaporizhzhia: 'How long will we be lucky?'

  • International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi at the foreign affairs ministers meeting on Monday (Photo: Council of the European Union)
Listen to article

The international nuclear agency's chief has urged MEPs to use their influence to push for a combat-free zone around Europe's largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told MEPs on Tuesday (24 January) that the situation around Zaporizhzhia is "pretty intense".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The establishment of a protection zone is ever more urgent and needed. This is an active combat zone, this nuclear power plant with six reactors is lying on the frontline," he said.

"I don't know for how long we are going to be lucky in avoiding a nuclear accident," Grossi said, adding that the protection zone would help avoiding that.

Grossi has spent last week in Ukraine in negotiations and is heading to Russia mid-February to seek an agreement on the protection zone.

"For months Russian armed forces have been using these Ukrainian power plants as safe havens to store ammunition and launch attacks on neighbouring areas," German MEP David McAllister, chair of the foreign affairs committee, said after the meeting.

"We do hope negotiations will conclude shortly, allowing for early establishment of this protection zone," French MEP Nathalie Loiseau said.

Grossi described Zaporizhzhia as a "flash point' in the war, as it is on Russian occupied territory.

"It has this quite bizarre situation: a Ukrainian facility in Russian-controlled territory, managed by Russians, but operated by Ukrainians," Grossi said.

"We have had serious cases of direct shelling especially late August and then in November, when we had another two days of direct bombing shelling," Grossi said.

He added that blackouts caused by the shelling are a "very dangerous thing", as power is needed to maintain the cooling system of the plant needs electricity.

There is a permanent presence of IAEA experts and inspectors, which Grossi said he left as a "fait accompli" there last year before the agreement between the two combat sides.

Grossi said the plant is not producing energy for the Ukraine grid, but it is not shut down completely as a low-level operation is needed to keep the safety systems working.

The IAEA chief said he aims for an "abstention of military action in and around the plant".

"There is a purely military aspect to what we are asking for," he said, adding that Russia would have to commit to not place rocket launchers, or heavy artillery around the plant.

"We need a political decisions," Grossi said, who on Monday also briefed EU foreign affairs ministers on his talks.

The Russian army last week said its troops launched an offensive in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, where fighting intensified after several months of an almost frozen frontline.

Opinion

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us