Exterior view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after the IAEA Nuclear Safety Team arrived (Picture: IAEA Mission/IAEA Imagebank/Alamy Live News).
Exterior view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after the IAEA Nuclear Safety Team arrived (Picture: IAEA Mission/IAEA Imagebank/Alamy Live News).
Ukraine

UN urges Russia and Ukraine to agree to demilitarised zone around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Exterior view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after the IAEA Nuclear Safety Team arrived (Picture: IAEA Mission/IAEA Imagebank/Alamy Live News).
Exterior view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after the IAEA Nuclear Safety Team arrived (Picture: IAEA Mission/IAEA Imagebank/Alamy Live News).

The United Nations is urging Russia and Ukraine to agree to a demilitarised zone around Europe's biggest power station over fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

An emergency session of the UN's Security Council was held to discuss the situation at the Russian-occupied facility, which experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) say has suffered extensive damage from shelling.

In a report following a visit by an inspection team last week, the IAEA said "shelling on site and in its vicinity should be stopped immediately to avoid any further damage to the plant and associated facilities, for the safety of the operating staff and to maintain the physical integrity to support safe and secure operation".

"This requires agreement by all relevant parties to the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone" around the plant.

Shelling continued around Europe's largest nuclear plant on Tuesday, a day after it was again knocked off Ukraine's electrical grid and put in the precarious position of relying on its own power to run its safety systems.

Russian-installed officials accused Ukrainian forces of shelling Enerhodar, the city where the plant is situated, while the Ukrainians said Kremlin forces attacked the city of Nikopol, across the Dnieper River from the power station.

World leaders have called for the demilitarisation of the plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the war but is being run by Ukrainian engineers.

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In its report, the IAEA noted that on several occasions, the plant lost, fully or in part, its off-site power supply because of military activity in the area.

The plant normally relies on outside power to run critical cooling systems for its reactors and spent fuel. A loss of those cooling systems could lead to a nuclear meltdown.

The UN agency said a back-up power supply line should be re-established and asked that "all military activities that may affect the power supply systems end".

In addition, the IAEA warned that the Ukrainian staff operating the plant under Russian military occupation are "under constant high stress and pressure, especially with the limited staff available" – a situation that could "lead to increased human error with implications for nuclear safety".

The IAEA also said the staff are not being given unrestricted access to some parts of the plant and must get permission from the Russian occupying forces to reach the cooling ponds where spent fuel is kept.

Mr Grossi expressed concern that that could hamper the staff's response in an emergency.