IAEA chief issues dire warning about potential risks at Russian-controlled nuclear power plant in Ukraine

There are legitimate concerns that the Russia-Ukraine conflict could escalate beyond conventional means and include the devastating use of nuclear weapons.

However, a top United Nations official is now warning that the conflict could go nuclear not due to the use of such weapons, but rather because of the heightened risk of an accident at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southeastern Ukraine, the Washington Examiner reported.

Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear plant in Europe, has reportedly been on the verge of catastrophe on multiple occasions since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February as fighting and artillery shelling have occurred in the immediate and near vicinity of the plant’s six nuclear reactors.

IAEA chief has “grave” concerns about the safety of nuclear plant

Rafael Grossi, the director general of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke this week with the Associated Press about his growing concern that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant “is completely out of control” and how he was pleading with the leadership of both Russia and Ukraine to allow his agency personnel an opportunity to ensure the plant was safe and stabilized.

“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated,” Grossi said with regard to the power plant. “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous.”

He further noted that the plant was located “in a place where active war is ongoing” and also addressed the “paradoxical situation” of how the plant was under the control of Russian military forces but was still staffed by Ukrainian workers, with whom the agency retained only “faulty” and “patchy” communications.

The threat of attack isn’t the only concerning risk

In addition to the obvious risk of fighting in and around the power plant, Grossi also raised concerns about how supply chains and routine inspections had been disrupted, making it unclear if the plant had sufficient spare parts and supplies for maintenance or if its nuclear material was sufficiently safeguarded.

“When you put this together, you have a catalog of things that should never be happening in any nuclear facility,” the IAEA chief told the AP. “And this is why I have been insisting from day one that we have to be able to go there to perform this safety and security evaluation, to do the repairs and to assist as we already did in Chernobyl.”

Chernobyl, which is located north of the capital of Kyiv in Ukraine, was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986 when it melted down. It was briefly seized by Russian forces at the beginning of the invasion but was later handed back over to the Ukrainians when Russian forces withdrew from that area to focus their attacks on other regions of the embattled former Soviet republic.

Sporadic fighting reported in and around the nuclear plant

Fears of a nuclear mishap skyrocketed in early March when, according to CBS News, Russian forces reportedly shelled the area around Zaporizhzhia and caused significant damage to parts of the massive facility but, thankfully, did not damage the six nuclear reactors on site.

Since that time, Russia has asserted control over the area and there have been some unconfirmed reports of sporadic attacks in and around the plant by both Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Most recently, according to Newsweek, Ukrainian officials, citing workers at the plant, have accused Russia of attempting to stash ammunition and military equipment inside sensitive areas of the facility in order to avoid artillery attacks on supply depots by Ukraine, a move that — if true — would seem to dramatically increase the dangerous risks of an explosive accident or miscalculated attack that could potentially trigger dire consequences, such as a devastating meltdown.

Latest News