Remarks by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs, at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant
United States Mission to the United Nations
September 6, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you to Secretary-General Guterres and Director General Grossi. We appreciate your continued support to ensure the operational safety and security of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant despite Russia’s ongoing attacks and refusal to silence its guns and withdraw from Ukraine so that this situation can be resolved peacefully and diplomatically.
First, let us commend the parties involved in facilitating the visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s team. The visit allowed them to carry out their important ongoing work, despite the increasingly dangerous situation within the Zaporizhzhya facility.
The United States welcomes the technical report of the IAEA’s mission to the Zaporizhzhya facility. We support continued, unhindered, and safe IAEA access to the facility. To that end, it is essential that Russia allow Ukrainian operators to implement any and all measures the IAEA team and Ukrainian operators deem important for the safe and secure operation of the plant to decrease the risk of a nuclear incident.
Colleagues, this is a matter of international nuclear safety and security. The potential danger here is enormous. It concerns us all. And so once again, we support Ukraine’s call for the demilitarization of the area surrounding the Zaporizhzhya facility. And we demand Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
Despite Russia’s song and dance here today to avoid acknowledging responsibility for its actions, Russia has no right to expose the world to unnecessary risk and the possibility of nuclear catastrophe. Worse, this is a situation entirely of Russia’s making. The current danger at Zaporizhzhya is a result of Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful invasion of Ukraine. And specifically, it is a result of Russia’s premeditated March 4th seizure of this plant.
The international community called for Russia to avoid the nuclear plant. Instead, Russian troops struck and seized the facility, jeopardizing the IAEA’s Seven Pillars of nuclear safety and security. Russia continues to conduct military operations around the plant. Every day Russia controls the plant increases the risk of a nuclear incident.
Over the weekend, shelling once again led to the disconnection of an external power line, putting at risk the plant’s operations. While we understand that the plant is currently generating enough power to operate its cooling systems, Russia’s continued military presence in the area will continue to put the plant – and the entire region – in serious danger. We continue to urge Russia to end all military operations at or near Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and to return full control to Ukraine.
The IAEA’s report instead details conditions drastically increasing the stress and duress on the operators and thus unacceptably raising the risk of human error. The report also notes continued combat operations in the vicinity and the installation of military equipment and personnel within the plant, which also contribute to the risk of nuclear disaster.
I want to mention here that we join the Director General in commending the staff at all nuclear facilities for their endurance and resilience in keeping the sites running in a safe and secure way amidst the conflict.
Mr. President, Nikopol’s brave Mayor recently told a media outlet, and I quote, “Our biggest challenge is that we can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow or even if there’s going to be a tomorrow.”
Another Ukrainian citizen was quoted saying, “All of us are just scared all the time. I’m old, I have diabetes. If anything happens, I will only have time to lie on the floor and close my eyes.”
No one should have to live like this. There is no excuse for the unnecessary risk of a nuclear incident. No one should be questioning if there will be a tomorrow.
The plant and the electricity it produces belong to Ukraine. Any attempt by Russia to disconnect the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant from Ukraine and redirect the power it generates toward Russia would be highly provocative, selfish, and short-sighted. We reject all efforts by Russia to use Ukraine’s electric grid as a pawn in this unjustified war and Ukraine’s nuclear power plant as a military shield or deployment site.
Russia is responsible for this crisis, and it can also resolve it now. The solution is not complicated. The Russian Federation must end its reckless behavior and immediately withdraw its troops, not only from the area surrounding Zaporizhzhya, but from all of Ukraine. Wry cynicism from Russia claiming profound concern about the risk of catastrophe will not cut it. It is obvious that the fastest way to fix this is for Russia to withdraw immediately.
Unfortunately for all of us, the Russian Federation showed its true colors when it obstructed the outcome at the Tenth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Russia alone blocked consensus on a final document. That should come as no surprise, given that Russia’s actions during its further invasion of Ukraine have undermined the safe, secure, and peaceful use of nuclear energy, the exact kind of issues the NPT and its review conference are called upon to address. This lack of commitment to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy calls into question Russia’s reliability as a supplier of nuclear material, equipment, and technology.
The world’s responsible NPT states parties have called for Russia to end all military activity near the Zaporizhzhya facility and rightfully return full control of the facility to Ukraine. Now is the time for Russia to listen, before it’s too late.
As the toll of this conflict on civilians grows even higher, I hope each of us on behalf of the countries we represent will underscore in this chamber that Russia must silence its guns, withdraw from Ukraine, and embrace diplomacy. General statements of concern or appeals to “all parties” will not help resolve this crisis. “All parties” are not responsible for this situation. Russia is. And it is incumbent on Russia to show now with its actions that it respects the UN Charter by respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Thank you, Mr. President.