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Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is still under threat By Jane McLeod, 4 Sept 22,

INSPECTORS from the International Atomic Energy Agency are used to risky missions – from the radioactive aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in Japan to the politically-charged Iranian nuclear programme.

But their deployment amid the war in Ukraine to Zaporizhzhia takes the threat to a new level and underscores the lengths to which the organisation will go in attempts to avert a potentially catastrophic nuclear disaster.

The six-month war, sparked by Russia’s invasion of its western neighbour, is forcing international organisations, including the IAEA, to deploy teams during active hostilities in their efforts to impose order around Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, pursue accountability for war crimes and identify the dead.

The Zaporizhzhia plant was once again knocked offline in the early hours yesterday amid sustained shelling that destroyed a key power line and penetrated deep into the plant’s premises, local Russian-backed authorities said.

The IAEA’s mission is meant to help secure the site as Moscow and Kyiv continue to trade blame for shelling at and around the plant.

The plant has repeatedly suffered complete disconnection from Ukraine’s power grid since last week, with the country’s nuclear energy operator Enerhoatom blaming mortar shelling and fires near the site.

Noting that the IAEA sent inspectors to Iraq in 2003 and to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia during fighting, Tariq Rauf, the organisation’s former head of verification and security, said: “This is not the first time that an IAEA team has gone into a situation of armed hostilities. But this situation in Zaporizhzhia, I think it’s the most serious situation where the IAEA has sent people in ever, so it’s unprecedented.”

IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi highlighted the risks on Thursday when he led a team to the sprawling plant in southern Ukraine.

“There were moments when fire was obvious – heavy machine guns, artillery, mortars at two or three times were really very concerning, I would say, for all of us,” he said of his team’s journey through an active war zone to reach the plant.

Speaking to reporters after leaving colleagues inside, he said the agency is “not moving” from the plant from now on, and vowed a “continued presence” of agency experts.

But it remains to be seen what exactly the organisation can accomplish.

Rauf added: “The IAEA cannot force a country to implement or enforce nuclear safety and security standards. They can only advise and then it is up to … the state itself.”

In Ukraine, that is further complicated by the Russian occupation of the power station.

The IAEA is not the only international organisation seeking to locate staff permanently in Ukraine amid the ongoing war.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan has visited Ukraine three times, set up an office in the country and sent investigators into a conflict zone to gather evidence amid widespread reports of atrocities. National governments including the Netherlands have sent expert investigators to help the court.

Khan told a United Nations meeting in April: “This is a time when we need to mobilise the law and send it into battle, not on the side of Ukraine against the Russian Federation or on the side of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, but on the side of humanity to protect, to preserve, to shield people … who have certain basic rights.”

September 6, 2022 - Posted by | safety, Ukraine

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