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United Nations Security Council Update

(As prepared for delivery)

I thank the President of the Security Council for allowing me the opportunity to update you on the IAEA’s activities concerning nuclear safety, security and safeguards in Ukraine. I also thank the Council for their continuing support of the IAEA’s efforts.

It has been more than two years since the war began, the first ever to be fought amid the facilities of a major nuclear power programme.

The IAEA has been monitoring the situation closely and assisting Ukraine every day since the start of the war. IAEA staff are continuously present, monitoring the situation at all five of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, including at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, which remains under Russian operational control.

Today my statement will focus on the recent grave violations of the five concrete principles that I first established in this very chamber on 30 May. These five concrete principles are there to prevent a nuclear accident and to maintain the integrity of the Zaporizhzhya NPP.  Let me remind them what they are:  

  1. 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;
  2. ZNPP should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons (i.e. multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and munitions, and tanks) or military personnel that could be used for an attack from the plant;
  3. Off-site power to the plant should not be put at risk. To that effect, all efforts should be made to ensure off-site power remains available and secure at all times;
  4. All structures, systems and components essential to the safe and secure operation of ZNPP should be protected from attacks or acts of sabotage;
  5. No action should be taken that undermines these principles.

On 30 May last year I said here that observing these principles was essential to avoid the danger of a catastrophic nuclear incident and that I had respectfully and solemnly asked both sides to commit to them.

At our meeting last May distinguished Members of the Security Council and Ukraine clearly supported those principles.

Nevertheless, Madame President, over the past ten days, the first of these principles has been violated repeatedly in what marks a step-change increase in risk to nuclear safety and security at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.

On Sunday, 7 April, the International Support and Assistance Mission to ZNPP (ISAMZ) confirmed the first attacks since November 2022 to directly target ZNPP.

The ISAMZ team was able to inspect the location of one direct strike at the apex of the containment dome of the Unit 6 reactor building.  Whilst the damage to the structure is superficial, the attack sets a very dangerous precedent of the successful targeting of the reactor containment. 

The other two attacks were in close proximity to the main reactor buildings and resulted in at least one casualty.

Agency experts at the site have been informed by ZNPP of a drone strike against the site’s oxygen and nitrogen production facility; two attacks on the training centre located just outside the site perimeter and reports of a drone shot down above the turbine hall of Unit 6. 

These reckless attacks must cease immediately. Though, fortunately,  they have not led to a radiological incident this time, they significantly increase the risk at Zaporizhzhya NPP, where nuclear safety is already compromised.

I am not only concerned about the attacks themselves, but also the context in which they have occurred. For several months before these direct attacks there had already been an increase in isolated drone incursions in the vicinity of the facility and in the nearby town of Energodar.

In other areas of nuclear safety degradation, the plant is currently relying on just two lines of external power. There have been at least four occasions in the past year when the plant has had only one line of external power supply, with the precarity lasting for periods of up to four months.

Let me put it plainly. Two years of war are weighing heavily on nuclear safety at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Every one of the IAEA’s 7 pillars of nuclear safety and security have been compromised.  We cannot sit by and watch as the final weight tips the finely balanced scale.   

Even though the plant’s six reactors are now in cold shutdown, with the final unit shifting into that status two days ago following the IAEA’s recommendation, the potential dangers of a major nuclear accident remain very real.

The Agency will continue closely to follow the operational status of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and provide technically viable alternatives in a context of rapid changes and challenges.

Our work at this facility remains essential. This has been recognized by all, irrespective of their side in this conflict. But to be effective, the IAEA teams need timely access to assess the condition of the plant and evaluate the cumulative impact that more than 26 months in a war zone have had on nuclear safety.

Madame President,

We are getting dangerously close to a nuclear accident. We must not allow complacency to let a role of the dice decide what happens tomorrow. We must do everything in our power today to minimize the risk of an accident.

The five principles established in this very chamber one year ago must be adhered to. They are there to prevent a major nuclear accident with potentially significant radiological consequences.

The latest attacks represent a flagrant violation of these crucial principles and must stop.

I am asking this Council for its steadfast support for the five principles and the IAEA’s seven pillars of nuclear safety and security which they help to underpin. And I am asking for your continued support of the IAEA’s role monitoring the situation, in the service of the international community.  

Despite huge challenges, the IAEA has kept open the indispensable lines of communication and will continue doing so. The support of your nations and of the Council as a whole is a necessity.

I thank the Council for inviting me today, thereby demonstrating your continuing commitment to this critical issue.

The IAEA and myself remain at your disposal to assist this body in its mission to preserve international peace and security.

Thank you, Madame President.

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