09:52, Fri, Jun 2, 2023 | UPDATED: 10:12, Fri, Jun 2, 2023
Zaporizhzhya power plant has been occupied by Russian forces (Image: Getty)
Ukrainian Nuclear Regulation Inspectorate head, Oleg Korikov, warned the situation at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant is “getting worse every day”. Korikov said Russian troops occupying the Zaporizhzhya plant are “causing direct damage to the nuclear safety and security of the plant”.
He continued: “In order to restore nuclear and radiation security, it is necessary to immediately withdraw the Russian military and Russian personnel.”
He added: “International partners were informed that the Russian invaders continue to exert intense pressure on the personnel of the ZNPP, resort to intimidation, search the private residences of the station employees, prohibit contact with persons who are in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government, and when people try to leave the occupied territory, they are not released and threaten confiscation of property.
“Representatives of Rosatom, who are illegally present at the ZNPP and are in fact complicit in the war crimes committed by the Russian Federation and its military, recruit personnel who do not have the appropriate qualifications.
Russian troops are causing direct damage to the plant (Image: Getty)
On Tuesday, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cautioned that the nuclear safety and security status at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant situated in Ukraine is extremely fragile and dangerous.
“Military activities continue in the region and may well increase very considerably in the near future,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in a UN Security Council briefing.
According Grossi, despite being in a temporary shut-down is not sustainable, the plant has been operating with a notably diminished workforce,
According to Grossi’s statement, there have been seven instances when the site lost all off-site power and had to rely on emergency diesel generators; the last one, the seventh, occurred just one week ago.
“We are fortunate that a nuclear accident has not yet happened… we are rolling a dice and if this continues then one day our luck will run out,” Grossi said, adding, “So we must all do everything in our power to minimize the chance that it does.”
Grossi laid out new “concrete principles” which “are essential to avoid the danger of a catastrophic incident” at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
Grossi also emphasized the need of safeguarding all structures, systems, and components, which are fundamental to the secure and safe functionality of the Zaporizhzhia facility, from potential assaults or acts of sabotage.
UNITED NATIONS — The nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine remains extremely fragile and dangerous, said the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday.
“Military activities continue in the region and may well increase very considerably in the near future,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told a UN Security Council briefing.
The plant has been operating on significantly reduced staff, which despite being in temporary shut-down is not sustainable, he said.
There have been seven occasions when the site lost all off-site power and had to rely on emergency diesel generators, the last line of defence against a nuclear accident, to provide essential cooling of the reactor and spent fuel. The last one, the seventh, occurred just one week ago, Grossi said.
“We are fortunate that a nuclear accident has not yet happened… we are rolling a dice and if this continues then one day our luck will run out,” he warned.
“So we must all do everything in our power to minimize the chance that it does,” said Grossi.
The IAEA chief laid out new “concrete principles” which he said are essential to avoid the danger of a catastrophic incident at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
There should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant, in particular targeting the reactors, spent fuel storage, other critical infrastructure or personnel, he said.
Zaporizhzhia should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons or military personnel that could be used for an attack from the plant, and off-site power to the plant should not be put at risk, he added.
All structures, systems and components essential to the safe and secure operation of the Zaporizhzhia plant should be protected from attacks or acts of sabotage, Grossi said.
The Zaporizhzhia power plant was taken under Russian control in March last year, becoming one of the first major areas to be captured by Vladimir Putin’s forces – but staff say they are intimidated by Russian troops to keep quiet about what’s happening behind closed doors.
Over a period of a few weeks we spoke to two workers at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
And the warnings they gave of what could happen should send a cold chill around the world.
The interviews were conducted on the condition of anonymity and at great personal risk to them. They told us that if they were caught, they could be tortured, imprisoned, or worse. They know the dangers but still wanted to be heard.
Neither of the technicians knew that we were talking to the other. But their testimony of the possibility of a major nuclear catastrophe was worryingly familiar. One of the men, who we will call Serhii, warned the consequences could cause devastation across much of Europe, Russia and the Mediterranean.
Both sides blame each other. But our sources told us that Russia has been deliberately targeting power lines to disrupt the flow of electricity to Ukraine. These lines are essential for plant safety and the cooling mechanism of the reactors.
For 30 years, workers at Europe’s largest nuclear power station couldn’t imagine that there could be a power outage.
Since Russian forces occupied the site last year it has happened seven times.
The back-up generators we were told are also not being properly maintained, the other man, Mykola, told us that this was because of staff shortages.
He says that before the war there were 11,000 staff at the plant and now there may be as few as 3,500.
“There is the same deficit of workers for repairs who can actually do the servicing and fix problems. The quality of the workers is lower because the qualified staff left. So generally the situation here is deteriorating.”
Ukraine’s defence ministry alleges Moscow could be about to simulate a major accident, such as a radioactive leak, as a way of stopping any Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south of the country.
Ukraine is expected to order its troops to reclaim territory lost at the beginning of the war in the coming weeks.
The power station has been under occupation now for 15 months and the technicians have told us that in the last few weeks the level of military activity has increased dramatically.
They’ve witnessed Russian forces, moving more armour, more ammunition and more guns into place as they fortify their positions.
Serhii says that he thinks it’s because they know the nuclear plant is safe from Ukrainian strikes.
“Ukrainian armed forces will not shell the station. That’s why they are multiplying the numbers of troops and vehicles here because if they did it in another place they would definitely get shelled by the armed forces of Ukraine.
“The thing is, one month and half ago there were two times less troops on the power station and now there are two times more which means they are definitely preparing for the counteroffensive.”
The report calls for adding nuclear warheads to existing submarine-launched ballistic missiles, building a new nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile, and preparing to deploy new long-range Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missiles on road-mobile launchers.
The current U.S. strategic triad consisting of aging land-based missiles, missile submarines, and aerial bombers is “only marginally sufficient to meet today’s requirements” for deterring China and Russia,” the report said. “For tomorrow’s requirements, the deficiencies are even more striking. The United States should plan and prepare to deploy additional warheads and bombs from the reserve it has maintained for such a possibility.”
Unfortunately, the article doesn’t tell us how to stop a war between the US and China. It does mention the possibility of setting up the sort of “hot line” that existed between the US and the Soviet Union, but it’s hard to see how that would be decisive. There was no hot line 1962, when the US and Russia pulled back from the brink of nuclear war.
Rachman says that policymakers view the risk of war as being quite high:
Visiting Washington last week, it was striking how commonplace talk of war between the US and China has become. That discussion has been fed by loose-lipped statements from American generals musing about potential dates for the opening of hostilities.
Those comments, while unwise, did not spring from nowhere. They are a reflection of the broader discussion on China taking place in Washington — inside and outside government. Many influential people seem to think that a US-China war is not only possible but probable.
The rhetoric coming out of Beijing is also bellicose. Last month, Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, said that “if the US side does not put on the brakes and continues down the wrong path . . . confrontation and conflict” between the two nations is inevitable.
I am also worried about the risk of war between the US and China. When thinking about this risk, it might be worth reviewing the situation in Europe, which seems equally dangerous. As far as I can tell, the US policy in Europe is roughly the following:
1. If Russia invades Estonia, we go to war with Russia.
2. If Russia invades Latvia, we go to war with Russia.
3. If Russia invades Lithuania, we go to war with Russia.
4. If Russia invades Ukraine, we supply Ukraine with weapons and intelligence.
A major war between two nuclear armed nations is a massive negative sum outcome. That sort of outcome is most likely to occur due to miscalculation. One way to reduce the risk of war is by making one’s intentions crystal clear, so that our adversaries know how we will respond if they act. Russia knows that we will defend Nato countries if they are attacked, and that’s why it doesn’t attack Nato countries.
It’s somewhat odd that the risk of war with China is currently seen as being higher than the risk of war with Russia, especially given the fact that Russia has a more powerful nuclear force than China and is led by a more reckless and militaristic leader. One possible factor is that our foreign policy in Asia is far more ambiguous than in Europe. Ambiguity can lead to miscalculation, which can have very negative effects.
In my view, clarity along the following lines would make war between the US and China much less likely than it is today, and much less likely than war between the US and Russia:
1. If China invades Japan, we go to war with China.
2. If China invades South Korea, we go to war with China.
3. If Russia China invades the Philippines (their main islands), we go to war with China.
4. If Russia China invades Taiwan, we supply Taiwan with weapons and intelligence.
[Yikes, there were typos in the original.]
In other words, replicate our successful European policy approach to avoiding a US war with Russia, as a way of avoiding war with China.
Of course there are other possible options, such as extending our defense umbrella to Taiwan. But whatever we decide to do, our policy must be crystal clear. The worst of all possible outcomes would be if the US intends to go to war with China over Taiwan, while China doesn’t believe the US intends to go to war over Taiwan. Remember the Gulf War of 1991?
Alternatively, suppose China believes that we’d go to war over Taiwan, but we have no intention of actually doing so. China might accompany an attack on Taiwan with a Pearl Harbor-type strike against US bases in Japan and Guam, triggering WWIII. All due to a misunderstanding. Not a likely outcome, but possible.
I don’t expect the US to follow my advice, and hence I see a non-trivial risk that miscalculation could lead to a nuclear war between the US and China during the late 2020s, which would be in no one’s interest. I hope I’m wrong.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is directly in the path of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, sitting on the south bank of the Dnieper River, which is currently occupied by Russia. The Russians have evacuated the surrounding countryside, and fortified the plant itself. There are sandbags and gun emplacements atop several of the reactors, soldiers outnumber the engineers there, and the area surrounding the plant has been heavily mined.
Ukraine’s defence ministry has warned that Russia plans to simulate a major accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which is under the control of Russian forces, in a bid to thwart the expected counteroffensive by Ukraine to retake its territory captured by Moscow….“Russians are preparing massive provocation and imitation of the accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the nearest hours,” the Ukrainian defence ministry’s intelligence directorate said on Friday.
“They are planning to attack the territory of the ZNPP [Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant]. After that, they will announce the leakage of the radioactive substances,” the intelligence directorate said in a statement and later on social media channels.
This story has been reported in many news outlets around the world, with caveats that no evidence has been presented to back it up.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is meeting tomorrow in a special session, chaired by Switzerland, although Russia holds the chair this month.
The meeting is aimed at encouraging the parties involved to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safety principles in order to avoid a nuclear catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is due to brief the council on the current situation and present the principles for ensuring safety on site.
The foreign ministry said Grossi had led efforts aimed at securing the protection of the plant during the conflict, “engaging in months of intense negotiations with both Ukraine and Russia to prevent a potentially severe nuclear accident”.
May 8 (Reuters) – Some 1,679 people, including 660 children, have been evacuated from areas near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, a Moscow-installed official in the Russia-controlled parts of the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine said late on Sunday.
Ukraine is expected to start soon a much-anticipated counteroffensive to retake Russian-held territory, including in the Zaporizhzhia region.
“(The evacuees) have already been placed in the temporary accommodation centre for residents of the front-line territories of the Zaporizhzhia region in Berdiansk,” Yevgeny Balitsky, Russian-installed governor of the Russia-controlled part of Zaporizhzhia region, said on his Telegram messaging channel.
Berdiansk is a south-eastern Ukrainian port city on the coast of the Sea of Azov, which has been occupied by Russia since the early days of Moscow’s invasion on Ukraine in February 2022.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Sandra Maler
The comment came just days after the Belarusian leader confirmed the transfer of Russian nuclear weapons to his country. Putin has periodically hinted at a nuclear escalation since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, dramatically increasing tensions with the United States and the West.
“It’s very simple. You have to join the union between Belarus and Russia, and that’s it: There will be nuclear weapons for everyone,” Lukashenko said in a comment aired Sunday night on Russian state TV.
“I think it’s possible,” Lukashenko added, saying that he was expressing his own view. “We need to strategically understand that we have a unique chance to unite.”
Tokayev said at the forum of the Eurasian Economic Union that Belarus and Russia enjoy a close relationship where “even nuclear weapons are shared between the two.”
The Union State between Russia and Belarus was formed in 1999 and allows the two former Soviet republics to integrate economically, politically and militarily.
On Thursday, the Belarusian leader confirmed that Russia has moved on the plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, first announced in March.
It comes amid escalating nuclear rhetoric from Putin as his war effort in Ukraine flounders. Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, which Putin said it will not hesitate to use if the country’s security or existence is threatened.
Belarus, which does not possess its own nuclear weapons after it transferred the stock it inherited from the Soviet era to Russia in the 1990s, is not officially a party to the war in Ukraine, although Moscow used its territory to launch the full-scale invasion last year.
Putin propped up Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime after violent protests nearly toppled “Europe’s last dictator” in 2020, deepening the country’s political and economic reliance on Russia.
Lukashenko confirmed that the movement of nuclear weapons had already begun on Thursday, without clarifying if they had already reached Belarusian soil, according to Belarusian state news agency Belta.
Meanwhile, defense ministers of the two countries, Sergei Shoigu and Viktor Khrenin, signed documents in Minsk last week, defining the procedure for keeping Russian nuclear weapons in Belarusian territory, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Moscow has already handed over to Minsk the “Iskander” missile system, which can carry nuclear weapons, Shoigu said, and has assisted in converting some Belarusian aircraft for the possible nuclear weapon use.
The State Department denounced the alleged deployment Thursday, calling it “the latest example of irresponsible behavior” by Russia.
Russia and Belarus’ nuclear agreement is ‘irresponsible’ and ‘provocative,’ White House says
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday responded after Russia signed an agreement with Belarus to store tactical nuclear weapons in the country, which neighbors several NATO allies and Ukraine.
Medvedev, an ardent supporter of Russian President of Vladimir Putin and a hawk, said NATO’s support for Ukraine accounts to a proxy war that could boil over if it continues aiding Kyiv.
“The Anglo-Saxons do not fully realize this and believe that it will not come to this. It will under certain conditions,” he said according to a Reuters report.
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman and the head of the United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev chairs a meeting on saving businesses and jobs in foreign companies via video link at Gorki state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, on March 16. (Yekaterina Shtukina, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP)
The current deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council further argued that aiding Ukraine in developing a nuclear weapon – a suggestion that no Western nation has publicly proposed – would prompt a Russian “missile with a nuclear charge coming to them.”
“There are irreversible laws of war. If it comes to nuclear weapons, there will have to be a pre-emptive strike,” Medvedev said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and former Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attend a cabinet meeting in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
The hawkish Russian elite has repeatedly issued inflammatory comments regarding the threat of nuclear warfare with the West over the conflict in Ukraine, and in March said that “nothing can be ruled out” when it comes to Russia’s war effort.
FILE – Ukrainian soldiers fire a cannon near Bakhmut, an eastern city where fierce battles against Russian forces have been taking place, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 15, 2023. For months, Western allies have shipped billions of dollars worth of weapons systems and ammunition to Ukraine with an urgency to get the supplies to Kyiv in time for an anticipated spring counteroffensive. Now summer is just weeks away. ( AP Photo/Libkos, File)
“This conflict will last for a very long time. For decades, probably. This is a new reality,” he said before calling Zelenskyy a “clown.”
“Everything always ends in negotiations, and this is inevitable, but as long as these people are in power, the situation for Russia will not change in terms of negotiations,” he added.
Zelenskyy has called on international partners to help facilitate a peace deal with Russia, and a Chinese envoy Friday was set to arrive in Moscow to discuss a peace plan with its top ally – though Western officials remain skeptical of its ability to hold such talks free of bias.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited troops in the Donetsk region, in a photo released Tuesday, April 18, 2023, by the country’s defense ministry. (Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense)
Kyiv has also made clear it will not agree to any peace negotiations until Russia removes its armed forces that have been illegally waging war in Ukraine since February 2022.
Zelenskyy plans to address plans for ending the war with Russia with Western allies at a “global summit” in July.
Caitlin McFall is a Reporter at Fox News Digital covering Politics, U.S. and World news.