U.S. Statement as Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate
Agenda Item 28 – The Safety, Security, and Safeguards Implications of the Situation in Ukraine
Vienna, Austria, September 29, 2022
The United States aligns itself with the joint statement that will be delivered by Canada, and recalls the statement issued following the high-level meeting France hosted in New York last week on the safety and security of civil nuclear facilities in armed conflicts. I would like to offer some additional remarks.
We find ourselves in this grave situation, where we must deal with unprecedented nuclear safety and security risks caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Over seven months ago, Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and immediately seized the still-contaminated site of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, using it as a staging area for its intended assault on Kyiv. Days later, Russia seized the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, treating Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure as a military trophy, seeking to deprive Ukraine of control over its own energy resources and putting Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the line of fire. From the very start, Russia’s actions have put at risk the safe operation of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, placing their staff and surrounding populations in harm’s way.
The United States applauds the Agency’s persistent efforts to help maintain the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, particularly the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. By outlining the “Seven Pillars” of nuclear safety and security, the Director General has focused international attention and mobilized assistance to forestall a potential disaster. He has reported that “events at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant site have significantly compromised the Seven Pillars” of nuclear safety and security, and risk “a severe nuclear accident with potentially grave radiological consequences.” I thank those Member States who have responded to Ukraine’s requests, and I thank the Secretariat for helping coordinate that assistance.
In particular, we applaud the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya and the work of IAEA experts to assess its nuclear safety and security and to continue to apply safeguards at the plant. Their continued presence helps provide transparency and is critical to the plant’s safety and security. We note the exceedingly difficult conditions at and around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and underscore the need for the continued safety and well-being of the Agency’s staff and the Ukrainian personnel at the plant.
We support Ukraine’s proposal to demilitarize a zone around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, and for the withdrawal of all Russian personnel – military and civilian – from that zone. We appreciate the similar objectives that underlie the Director General’s proposal for a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and look forward to further elaboration of this proposal in a way that fully respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The United States is pleased that the Agency has been able to conduct essential safeguards activities in Ukraine and continues to find “no indication of the diversion of declared nuclear material or any indication that would give rise to a proliferation concern.” This is a quote from the Director General’s report. In applying safeguards in Ukraine, the Agency must act in accordance with Ukraine’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.
Finally, let me address the sham referenda that were held in Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine this past week. These referenda are entirely illegitimate. They have no basis in law and no legal effect and will in no way alter Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and the power it produces rightfully belong to Ukraine. And I appreciate the Agency’s commitment to respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. I trust that it will continue to do so.
In the long term, the only solution to these problems created by Russia’s invasion is for Russia to withdraw and return control of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities to the competent Ukrainian authorities, which are their rightful owners and remain best equipped to maintain their ongoing safety and security, having done so for decades.
I am grateful that so many countries that signed onto the joint statement under this agenda item. And as Member States, we must continue to hold Russia accountable for its actions.
Thank you, President.