Ukrainian nuclear operator Enerhoatom said on September 7 that officials are considering the possibility of shutting down the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in war-torn southeastern Ukraine, and they further suggested deploying a possible peacekeeping contingent there. The statements follow an assessment by the UN's atomic watchdog the previous day for the UN Security Council in which it warned the situation there was "untenable" and there was "an urgent need for interim measures" to avoid a nuclear accident.
Ukraine's Enerhoatom also said on September 7 that the plant remains separated from the Ukrainian grid and warned that further disconnection would force operators to start up diesel generators -- a risky option because the diesel supply could run out anytime.
"One of the ways to create a security zone at the ZNPP [Zaporizhzhya facility] could be to set up a peacekeeping contingent there and withdraw Russian troops," Enerhoatom chief Petro Kotyn said in televised remarks about the embattled plant, which is Europe's largest.
Nuclear experts have warned of a possible Chernobyl- or Fukushima-style meltdown if the reactors are starved of power supplies.
Russia, whose troops have occupied Zaporizhzhya nearly since its invasion of Ukraine began in February, immediately requested "further clarifications" from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after the report based on a recent visit by more than a dozen of its inspectors.
On September 7 in Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he "trusted" the IAEA's report and added that he had asked the Russian atomic agency, Rosatom, to present its own security proposals.
Putin also continued to blame Ukrainians for creating "threats to nuclear security" and shelling at and around the plant -- a charge that Kyiv has rejected while accusing Russian forces of risky bombing and "nuclear terrorism."
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Vladivostok of the IAEA report that "there is a need for further clarification, because the report contains a number of issues -- I will not list them now -- but we requested these explanations from the Director General of the IAEA," according to Interfax.
The IAEA's report urged Russia and Ukraine to establish a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the plant and said shelling at the site and its vicinity should stop immediately to avoid any further damage to the plant and for the safety of its operating staff.
"Unfortunately, the report did not contribute to the rapid de-occupation of the plant, but became only another stage of an exhausting marathon that has been going on for more than six months," Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said in a post on Facebook.
The plant was seized by Russian forces in March, but is still connected to the Ukrainian power grid and is operated by Ukrainian staff. Both the Ukrainian and Russian sides have accused each other of launching attacks on the area.
In separate comments on September 7, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the West of putting pressure on the IAEA mission that visited the plant last week. After the mission departed, two members of the IAEA remained at the plant to monitor the situation.
The RIA Novosti news agency quoted Zakharova as saying that Russia had provided the mission with full data on the source of shelling and was questioning why it did not name Ukraine as the source of attacks on the nuclear power plant in its report.
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