Amid widespread warnings of a potential “catastrophe” at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant trapped amid the war in Ukraine, India has called on Moscow and kyiv to show “mutual restraint”.
“In order not to endanger the safety and security of nuclear facilities and the personnel working there, we reiterate our call for strict mutual restraint,” India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said on Tuesday during a meeting. a meeting of the Security Council on the dangers for the Zaporizhzhia power plant.
“India attaches great importance to ensuring the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, as any accident involving nuclear facilities could have serious consequences for public health and the environment.”
Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the demilitarization of the area around the facility, warning that “any damage, intentional or not, to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, or any other nuclear facility in Ukraine, could be catastrophic, not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond”.
Although the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was under Russian occupation, it continued to be operated by Ukrainians.
The area around the facility has been bombed and, apart from the risk of a direct hit, it also risks losing its ability to cool its reactors and spent fuel in the event of a loss of internal power and the Ukrainian grid causing a merger.
Russia and Ukraine continue to trade accusations over who is responsible for endangering the plant.
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, who visited the plant last week, said: “We are playing with fire… Something very, very catastrophic could occur”.
The IAEA on Tuesday released a report also calling for “the immediate establishment of a nuclear security safety and protection zone” around the plant.
António Guterres proposed a two-step plan to protect the plant, starting with both sides pledging not to engage in military activities from or towards the plant.
Then, he said, there should be an agreement to set up a “demilitarized perimeter”.
“Specifically, this would include a commitment by Russian forces to withdraw all military personnel and equipment from this perimeter and a commitment by Ukrainian forces not to enter it,” he said.
While Russia’s permanent representative Vasily Nebenzia accused Kyiv of bombing the plant, Ukraine’s permanent representative Sergiy Kyslytsya said the plant’s armed provocations continue and the only way to to avoid the nuclear threat was for Moscow to withdraw from there and return the plant to Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters later, Nebenzia seemed skeptical of the demilitarization proposal, saying it was not serious.
He denied that the Russian-controlled factory had been militarized and said his country was only trying to protect it.
Russian forces occupied another nuclear facility, the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant, in February, but withdrew the following month.
The Chernobyl facility witnessed the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, resulting in radiation leaks that killed 31 people but continue to affect thousands.
A 20-mile radius exclusion zone has been created around the decommissioned plant and structures erected to contain radiation, which must be continuously monitored.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at email@example.com and followed at @arulouis)
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