Nuclear Stalemate

Nuclear Stalemate

Photo: https://apa.az/ru/

The shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Energodar continued in the morning of August 12. This is the most conspicuous fact that the UN Security Council meeting the night before did not lead to any progress. The UN Security Council was at work to figure out who was to blame and what to do but so far to no avail.

Most Powerful Nuclear Power Plant

Since the beginning of August the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station became a full-fledged theater of military actions in the worst sense. Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling the plant but the main problem is that the solution has not been found yet. The only comforting fact is that, as the local reports say, there is no critical infrastructure damage yet, and the radiation background is normal.

Peter Kotin, acting president of Ukraine's management company Energoatom, told Rosbusinessconsulting-Ukraine on the eve of the UN Security Council meeting that Kiev controls the work of the nuclear plant, and the Russian military guards the perimeter of the plant.

According to Kotin, the plant’s personnel comply with all Kiev orders, but coordinate their actions with the military, “and they consult with Rosatom representatives.” So, Rosatom people are there as a “monitoring mission.”

In addition, Kotin said that if Russian specialists try to disconnect the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant from the Ukrainian energy system in order to redirect the electricity it generates to the liberated territories, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are capable of “breaking the lines they are going to hook up.”

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is territorially located near the city of Energodar (the Zaporizhzhya region), with the population of about 53,000 people, many of whom are specialists working at the station.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. According to information from the Energoatom website, it has 6 nuclear units, which are equipped with VVER-1000-type reactors. The plant generates 40-42 billion kilowatt-hours per year, which is about 20 percent of all electricity produced in Ukraine. In November 2021, its management reported that four units were switched to fuel elements from Westinghouse Electric Company LLC, which is owned by the Canadian Brookfield Asset Management fund.

As of today, Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is under the control of the civil-military administration of Zaporizhzhia Region, and the Russian military took control of Energodar and the station in the first days of March.

Come When They kill you

On Thursday evening, August 11, the UN Security Council convened at the initiative of Russia to consider the situation around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. In brief, the parties merely stated their positions. So far, there is no discussion on the solution of the problem, which was confirmed by the shelling on Friday morning, August 12.

The statement by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi that “these military activities near such a large nuclear facility could lead to very serious consequences” is a trivial statement of fact. Of course, it is very valuable that the IAEA draws the world's attention to the risks in connection with the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. However, in reality, these are no more than good wishes that have no effect on the situation because in the morning of August 12 the nuclear power plant was shelled again.

Grossi said that the IAEA receives information about the state of affairs at the plant from Russia and Ukraine, noting that these data often contradict each other. At the same time, the IAEA CEO stressed that without a physical presence, IAEA experts cannot draw conclusions about damage or risks. According to Grossi, despite the IAEA's readiness to send such an inspection to the plant starting in June, it has not been possible due to political factors and other considerations.

“This is a deadly serious moment, so the IAEA should be allowed to send its mission as soon as possible,” Grossi said. At the same time, he lamented and talked a lot about the need for the IAEA inspection at the plant, but did not say when such a visit would take place. He could not give any specifics as to why the IAEA experts have not yet arrived at the plant, if they have been on standby since June.

This is where the old saying comes to mind that one who wants results looks for opportunities, and one who doesn't want them comes up with reasons.

Take it out and Bring it Back

Both the Security Council and the IAEA are Western international platforms. So, Vasily Nebenzya, the current Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, had only to warn about the consequences of a strike on the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.

In his speech, he cited the facts of attacks by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and said that Russia sends bulletins to the IAEA about each such incident.

According to Nebenzya, the Russian delegation believes that Kiev and its support group in the West are to blame for the failure of the IAEA mission, which does not want the agency to be convinced that the nuclear power plant is functioning normally.

“He called on states that support the Kiev regime to ‘get their proxies under control’ and stop the attacks is the only way to prevent a massive radiation disaster on the European continent that now looks more serious than ever,” the official UN website quoted Nebenzia as saying.

As for the U.S. and its satellites, they have made their position clear. In brief, the withdrawal of Russian troops is required first, followed by the IAEA mission at the plant. If not, it is up to you.

The speeches of the participants of the meeting clearly showed that they split into two groups. The first group (Albania, Norway and France) speaks in unison with the United States, blaming Russia. The second group, represented by India, Brazil, the UAE and others, is not looking for someone to blame, but calls for negotiations and stresses that all parties are responsible for the situation around the nuclear power plant.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins explicitly blamed Russia for the shelling, calling on Russian authorities to immediately withdraw their troops and return the ZNPP to Ukraine. Jenkins supported the visit of the IAEA mission but “with respect for Ukraine's sovereignty” i.e. after the return of the nuclear power plant to Kiev's control.

As for Kiev, Ukraine's permanent representative to the UN Serhiy Kyslytsya said that Ukraine agrees to a visit of the IAEA inspection, but puts forward a number of conditions. The arrival of the IAEA mission through Ukrainian-controlled territory, a public statement by the Russian Federation on its readiness to accept the inspectors without any conditions, and the absence of obstacles on the part of Russia to the arrival of the IAEA mission – all these conditions look feasible. But the demand to withdraw troops, weapons and military equipment from the Zaporizhzhia NPP is a copy of the statement by the U.S. representative.

Demilitarization or Return?

At a meeting of the UN Security Council, a proposal was made to demilitarize the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. It should be explained that any nuclear power station is a strategically important facility, which is necessarily guarded by armed units (as a rule, these are internal troops, the National Guard, etc.). Therefore, it is impossible in principle for all military personnel to leave a nuclear power plant.

That is, translated from the diplomatic/bureaucratic language into understandable language, demilitarization is the return of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant under Ukrainian control. Then it becomes clear why Nebenzia took this proposal at dagger point. Against the backdrop of hostilities, the proposal to introduce an UN-mandated peacekeeper unit to the nuclear power plant stands a better chance but there are pitfalls here, too. For example, if peacekeepers are US or Swedish servicemen, it is evident that under the guise of demilitarization the plant would simply be passed under Washington's control. Russia is unlikely to agree to such an option.

Nevertheless, there are points of contact on the issue of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. There is a recent example of what Ukraine and Russia can agree on which is the grain deal. At the UN Security Council meeting, the delegate from Gabon did not accuse anyone, but called on all sides to use the momentum of the recent grain export deal from Ukraine to start cease-fire negotiations.

All the more so because there is a hidden interest in the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant story that has so far remained “behind the scenes,” namely, the Canadian company Westinghouse Electric LLC. We remember that western traders Cargill, Agroprosperis, Archer Daniels Midland and other companies also appeared in the story with the “grain deal.” Cargill&Co has assets both in Ukraine and in Russia. Obviously, this also played a role.

Nevertheless, the meeting of the UN Security Council showed that all the proposals on Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant are just talk. Of course, it is a plus that the problem was voiced at such a level as the UN Security Council. But the variants of its decision are not visible yet, especially as the IAEA does not wish to fulfill its obligations referring to “political factors” and absence of safety guarantees for experts. There is one more evident variant left, to move the front line away from the plant as much as possible, but so far it is not known when Russian troops will be able to realize this variant. The wicked irony of fate is that the military escalation around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which is being hyped by Kiev, is taking place in a country that survived such a terrible nuclear disaster as Chernobyl.

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