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Science And Nature

UN nuclear chief: Ukraine nuclear plant is `out of control’

US (AP) The U.N. nuclear chief warned that Europes largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine is totally uncontrollable and issued an urgent plea to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to go to the sprawling complex to stabilize the problem and steer clear of a nuclear accident.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said within an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that the problem gets more perilous each day at the Zaporizhzhia plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, which Russian troops seized in early March, immediately after their Feb. 24. invasion of Ukraine.

Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated at the plant, he said. What’s at stake is incredibly serious and intensely grave and dangerous.

Grossi cited many violations of the plants safety, adding that it’s in a location where active war is ongoing, near Russian-controlled territory.

The physical integrity of the plant hasnt been respected, he said, citing shelling at the start of the war when it had been bought out and continuing information from Ukraine and Russia accusing one another of attacks at Zaporizhzhia.

There exists a paradoxical situation where the plant is controlled by Russia, but its Ukrainian staff continues to perform its nuclear operations, resulting in inevitable moments of friction and alleged violence, he said. As the IAEA has some contacts with staff, they’re faulty and patchy, he said.

Grossi said the supply chain of equipment and spare parts has been interrupted, so we have been uncertain the plant gets all it requires. The IAEA must also perform essential inspections to make sure that nuclear material has been safeguarded, and there’s plenty of nuclear material there to be inspected, he said.

Once you put this together, you’ve got a catalog of items that shouldn’t be happening in virtually any nuclear facility, Grossi said. Which is why I have already been insisting from day one which we have in order to go there to execute this security and safety evaluation, to accomplish the repairs also to assist once we already did in Chernobyl.

The Russian capture of Zaporizhzhia renewed fears that the biggest of Ukraines 15 nuclear reactors could possibly be damaged, leaving another emergency just like the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the worlds worst nuclear disaster, which happened about 110 kilometers (65 miles) north of the administrative centre Kyiv.

Russian forces occupied the heavily contaminated site immediately after the invasion but handed control back again to the Ukrainians by the end of March. Grossi visited Chernobyl on April 27 and tweeted that the amount of safety was such as a `red light blinking. But he said Tuesday that the IAEA create an assistance mission at Chernobyl in those days that is very, very successful up to now.

The IAEA must head to Zaporizhzhia, since it did to Chernobyl, to see the reality of what’s actually happening there, to handle repairs and inspections, also to prevent a nuclear accident from happening, Grossi said.

The IAEA chief said he and his team need protection to access the plant and the urgent cooperation of Russia and Ukraine.

Each side wants this international mission to go from different sites, that is understandable in light of territorial integrity and political considerations, he said, but theres something more urgent which is obtaining the IAEA team to Zaporizhzhia.

The IAEA, by its presence, is a deterrent to any act of violence from this nuclear power plant, Grossi said. So Im pleading being an international civil servant, because the head of a global organization, Im pleading to both sides to let this mission proceed.

Grossi was in NY to provide a keynote speech at Mondays opening of the long-delayed high-level meeting to examine the landmark 50-year-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty targeted at avoiding the spread of nuclear weapons and finally achieving a nuclear-free world.

In the interview, the IAEA chief also spoke about efforts to regenerate the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that the Trump administration abandoned in 2018 and the Biden administration has been attempting to renew.

Grossi said there’s a continuing effort to attempt to go for another meeting or round to explore possibilities to come quickly to an agreement. He said he heard the meeting could possibly be soon.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the NPT review conference on Monday that Iran has either been unwilling or struggling to accept a deal to come back to the 2015 agreement targeted at reining in its nuclear program.

Grossi said you can find important differences on the list of negotiating parties and important verification issues linked to past activities that Iran must address. Its not impossible, its complex, he said.

If the nuclear agreement, referred to as the JCPOA, isn’t extended, he said some IAEA inspections will continue. However the JCPOA offers additional transparency and inspections that i deem as vitally important, very necessary, due to the breadth and depth of the nuclear program in Iran, he said.

Grossi stressed that cooperating with the IAEA, answering its questions, allowing its inspectors to go wherever they have to be, is vital for Iran to create trust and confidence. Promises and good words won’t do, he said.

On another issue, Grossi said last September’s deal where the USA and Britain provides Australia with nuclear reactors to power its submarines requires an agreement with the IAEA to make sure that the quantity of nuclear material in the vessel when it leaves port will there be when it returns.

He said Australia hasnt decided which kind of vessel it’ll be getting, so while there were preparatory talks, substantive talks cant begin.

Because its a military vessel, Grossi said, there are various confidential and protection of information measures that require to be embedded into such agreement, so its highly complex technologically.”

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