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Ukraine Says Shutdown Eyed For Nuclear Plant, Seeks Peacekeepers After IAEA Report

By RFE/RL September 07, 2022

Ukrainian nuclear operator Enerhoatom has said that officials are considering the possibility of shutting down the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in war-torn southeastern Ukraine, and they further suggested deploying a possible peacekeeping contingent there.

The statements follow an assessment by the UN's nuclear watchdog the previous day to the UN Security Council in which it warned the situation there was "untenable" and there was "an urgent need for interim measures" to avoid a nuclear accident.

Enerhoatom also said on September 7 that the plant remained separated from the Ukrainian grid and warned that further disconnection would force operators to start up diesel generators -- a risky option because the diesel supply could run out anytime.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said later on September 7 that shelling near the plant damaged one of three backup power lines.

There was no immediate impact from the damage because the plant has already been disconnected from the electrical grid.

The plant's sole operating reactor is supplying power needed for cooling purposes, but with each external power line that goes down, it loses a line of defense against potential nuclear meltdown.

Nuclear experts have warned of a possible Chernobyl- or Fukushima-style meltdown if the reactors are starved of power supplies.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling that has occurred close to the plant and within its perimeter, risking nuclear catastrophe. Russian forces took over the plant soon after launching their invasion of Ukraine in February, but Ukrainian technicians still operate the power station.

The IAEA's report urges Russia and Ukraine to establish a "nuclear safety and security protection zone" around the plant and said shelling at the site and its vicinity should stop immediately to avoid any further damage to the plant and for the safety of its operating staff.

"One of the ways to create a security zone at the ZNPP [Zaporizhzhya facility] could be to set up a peacekeeping contingent there and withdraw Russian troops," Enerhoatom chief Petro Kotyn said in televised remarks about the embattled plant, which is Europe's largest.

Russia immediately requested "further clarifications" from the IAEA after the report, which followed a recent visit by more than a dozen of its inspectors.

Speaking in Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he "trusted" the IAEA's report and said he had asked the Russian atomic agency, Rosatom, to present its own security proposals.

Putin also continued to blame Ukrainians for creating "threats to nuclear security" and shelling at and around the plant -- a charge that Kyiv has rejected while accusing Russian forces of risky bombing and "nuclear terrorism."

Earlier, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Vladivostok of the IAEA report that "there is a need for further clarification" and Russia has "requested these explanations from the director-general of the IAEA," according to Interfax.

"Unfortunately, the report did not contribute to the rapid de-occupation of the plant, but became only another stage of an exhausting marathon that has been going on for more than six months," Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on Facebook.

In separate comments on September 7, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the West of putting pressure on the IAEA mission that visited the plant last week. Two members of the IAEA remained at the plant after the mission departed to monitor the situation.

The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Zakharova as saying Russia had provided the mission with full data on the source of shelling and was questioning why the mission did not name Ukraine as the source of attacks on the nuclear power plant in its report.

With reporting by Interfax, dpa, Reuters, and RIA Novosti

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-zaporizhzhya-nuclear- plant-report-russia-clarification/32022224.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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