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30th Jun 2022

UN nuclear watchdog seeks safety meeting — at Chernobyl

  • The goal of any meeting would be to seek agreements among the combatants to ensure nuclear safety is not compromised again as a result of the military conflict (Photo: Trey Ratcliff)
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The UN atomic watchdog has invited Russian and Ukrainian officials to meet about safety after a Russian-fired projectile hit Europe's largest nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine early Friday (4 March).

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said he had called a meeting to take place at Chernobyl, the site of the accident in 1986 that is considered the worst in the industry's history.

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  • There would have been a 'dramatic situation' had the reactors [left in the picture] been hit, Rafael Mariano Grossi said (Photo: IAEA Imagebank)

The goal of the meeting, said Grossi, would be to seek agreements among the combatants to ensure nuclear safety is not compromised again as a result of the military conflict.

Grossi said the two sides still were considering the initiative, which he said would have nothing to do with "political aspects of this crisis."

Chernobyl, covered in a purpose-built concrete sarcophagus after the explosion, and then updated with further protection in recent years, is itself now under Russian military control.

The station that was hit early on Friday, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which produces fully a quarter of Ukraine's power, was not damaged and there was no release of radioactive material, Grossi said.

Even so, two security staff were injured in the strike, which caused a fire at a training complex. There would have been a "dramatic situation" had the reactors been hit, Grossi said.

Russia's defence ministry on Friday blamed Ukrainian "saboteurs" for the attack, according to Reuters.

There are 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine and concerns have been mounting since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"Any accident caused as a result of the military conflict could have extremely serious consequences for people and the environment, in Ukraine and beyond," Grossi warned on Wednesday.

Ukraine had earlier this week sought "immediate assistance" to ensure the safety of Chernobyl and other nuclear facilities in Ukraine from the international nuclear agency, but the IAEA chief said he would not send his staff before conditions are agreed.

EU pledges aid for new Chernobyl sarcophagus

The European Commission has pledged €110 million toward the building of a new sarcophagus for the Chernobyl nuclear plant - an arched, cyclopean structure which is to slide over the damaged reactor and to provide Ukraine with roughly 100 years to dispose of the nuclear waste.

EU takes nuclear protection measures, amid safety worries

Europe set up a rapid decontamination team to protect Ukraine and EU member countries against chemical, biological or nuclear attacks, and sent three million potassium iodide tablets to Ukraine, amid worries over the safety of the country's nuclear facilities.

Chernobyl staff relieved after weeks, but risks remain

After weeks of continuous work and extreme pressure, staff at Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine were finally relieved by boat via the Pripyat river — but situation at high-risk site is still far from normal, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

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One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

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