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07 Sep 2022

The world could be at the brink of a very large nuclear disaster, according to IAEA

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"We are playing with fire and something very, very catastrophic could take place"

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), held a speech to the United Nations on Tuesday. He delivered his agency's report on the critical damage and security failings at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to several international media. 

According to an article in Fox News,  the IAEA director said on Tuesday September 6,  that "The first important safety pillar that exists in any nuclear facility is not to violate its physical integrity.... And unfortunately…this has happened. This happened and this continues to happen. The physical attack, wittingly or unwittingly – the hits that this facility has received and that I could personally see and assess together with my experts – is simply unacceptable."

Grossi's remarks come the same day as the IAEA released a report documenting damages at the plant that have been inflicted since the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine in the spring of this year. 

According to an article on Newstalk.comThe International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded an urgent end to the fighting around Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, warning soldiers in Ukraine that they are “playing with fire”. 

The IAEA conducted an inspection of the site last week and. The organisation is refusing to put the blame on either side of the conflict, but is rather urging both sides to establish a nuclear safety zone around the facility. 

The power plant is allegedly very different from the Chernobyl power plant, and the fail safe systems are therefor much more modern and sophisticated. The reasons for a meltdown would be very different, and a failure can likely still be prevented as long as no more physical assaults are directed at the plant.     

Nuclear safety engineer Norma O’Mahony says to Newstalk that the major risks around the plant at the moment is that the safety systems at the plant are dependant on electricity:

"You need electricity to keep those safety systems going to ensure that you can keep pumping water in and out of the reactor to keep it cool ...  cooling is what prevents a nuclear meltdown”, she stated.  

According to an article in VoaNews.com, the IAEA inspectors found Russian troops and equipment inside, including military vehicles parked near turbines. They also found the situation of staff concerning, as they are working "under constant high stress and pressure" which they said could lead to human error.

The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that "all steps must be taken to avoid" damaging the power plant, telling the council it "could spell catastrophe" both for the region and for areas beyond.

"All efforts to reestablish the plant as purely civilian infrastructure are vital," he said.

 

Photo Credit (Above): Wikipedia Commons Licence. Photo taken 10 July 2009. AuthorRalf1969
Two power stations at Enerhodar, about 50 km from Zaporozhye in Ukraine, viewed from across the Kakhovka Reservoir on the river Dnieper. Photo taken from the "Nikopol" shore. The nearer power station is Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the biggest nuclear power station in Europe, consisting of two cooling towers (one largely obscured by the other) at the left and 6 VVER reactor buildings. The large building between the cooling towers and the reactors, and the two tall smokestacks, are at the Zaporizhzhia thermal power station about 3 km beyond the nuclear plant.