IAEA Board of Governors Meeting – Agenda Item 6 –
Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine
U.S. Statement as Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate
Vienna, Austria, November 17, 2022
Let me begin by expressing appreciation to the Director General and Secretariat staff for the November report on Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine (Gov/2022/66) and we take note of it. We applaud the Agency’s continued efforts to help mitigate the rolling crisis that Russia has precipitated by its actions. Here we are, yet again, to address the damage to nuclear safety, security, and safeguards caused by Russia’s brutal war of choice against Ukraine. Once again, irresponsible actions by one Member State jeopardize not only international peace and security writ large, but also the specific objectives of the Agency. And once again Board members must express our condemnation of the reckless and inhumane actions of a fellow Board member. It is our duty to uphold the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the norms that reinforce it and to thereby enable the Agency’s Statutory mission to contribute to “peace, health, and prosperity.” Not doing so would put that essential IAEA mission at risk.
Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine over eight months ago, this Board has considered the issue and adopted resolutions in response. Those resolutions deplored Russia’s actions at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and called for Russia to cease all actions at, near, or against those facilities in order for competent Ukrainian authorities to regain full control. Needless to say, Russia continues to defy those calls and instead has illegally asserted its control and ownership of Ukraine’s civilian nuclear infrastructure, leaving us no choice but to reject Russia’s claims and insist that Russia stop acting in ways that undermine the IAEA’s nuclear safety, security, and safeguards missions.
Russia has repeatedly failed to take necessary and prudent steps to minimize nuclear safety and security risks. Instead, Russia’s actions have heightened them. Let me offer two examples:
First, Russia’s reckless, dangerous, and reprehensible actions now include Russia’s repeated unjust detentions of key managers at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and application of other forms of pressure on the plant’s Ukrainian personnel. As the Director General’s latest report articulates clearly, these actions further undermine one of the core pillars of nuclear safety and security: that staff be able to fulfill their duties and make decisions without undue pressure. We therefore demand that Russia cease these cruel and intolerable actions, immediately release any Ukrainian personnel still detained, and allow staff to fulfill their duties without any outside influence or pressure. We are all in debt to the brave Ukrainian personnel at Zaporizhzhya, who have managed, despite appalling circumstances, to safely operate this facility and avoid even worse outcomes than we have already seen.
Second, Russia’s forces have been in active combat operations at and around Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, stationed weapons there, and built defensive emplacements. The plant’s connections to the electrical grid and to offsite power have been severed repeatedly as a result of these combat operations, undermining another one of the Seven Pillars. Russia’s continued attacks against Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure put at risk power to all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. Indeed, Russia’s actions have and continue to put at risk every one of the Director General’s Seven Pillars of Nuclear Safety and Security in Ukraine.
The United States reaffirms its full support for the UN General Assembly resolution A/ES-11/L.5, adopted October 12 and entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” We will never recognize the Russian Federation’s illegal attempted annexations of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya regions of Ukraine, or its earlier illegal attempted annexation of Crimea, and we strongly condemn Russia’s attempts to control at gun point nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. Any such annexation attempts are null and void and have no legal effect. My government is pleased that the Agency is acting in accordance with this resolution and with the guidance of the Board in that regard, and that it continues to fully respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, including through implementation of its activities under Ukraine’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, Additional Protocol, and request for assistance under the Nuclear Assistance Convention. Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and the electricity it produces belong to Ukraine. Any attempt by Russia to disconnect the plant from Ukraine’s power grid or connect it to Russia’s grid is unacceptable. Russia’s seizure of and attacks on Ukraine’s civilian nuclear infrastructure completely disqualify Russia as a responsible nuclear power and nuclear supplier.
The United States applauds the Director General’s persistent and creative efforts to help support the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, particularly Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, including his continued effort to establish a safety and security protection zone there, in full accord with Ukrainian sovereignty and Ukraine’s operational control of the plant, and welcomes statements by the Director General that the Agency does not recognize any altered status of any part of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. We welcome and take note of his third summary report and support his work to focus international attention on the situation at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and provide the needed assistance and expertise to prevent a potential disaster. In particular, we applaud the work of the IAEA experts and inspectors to assess and report on nuclear safety and security, and to apply safeguards, at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, in the midst of unprecedented risks.
The United States welcomes that the IAEA has been able to continue conducting essential safeguards activities at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. The Agency continues to find “no indication of the diversion of declared nuclear material or any indication that would give rise to a proliferation concern.” We were also pleased with the results from the IAEA’s recent in-field verification activities at three locations in Ukraine, at the request of Ukraine, following Russia’s fabricated and outrageous claims that Ukraine was planning to use a “dirty bomb.” Russia has never provided any credible evidence to support this or any of its previous claims against Ukraine, and the Agency’s rapidly deployed independent inspectors have uncovered no evidence to substantiate Russia’s baseless accusations. Ukraine’s exemplary nonproliferation record continues despite Russian actions and irrespective of Moscow’s fabrications.
We have before us a draft resolution (GOV/2022/69) to respond to Russia’s latest nuclear-related actions in Ukraine and to reaffirm the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly last month. The United States supports this draft resolution and urges other Board members to do the same. This body needs to show its continued support for the Agency’s efforts to provide and coordinate international assistance to help maintain the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, and for the Agency’s work to fulfill its essential safeguards responsibilities.
In addition, we must continue holding Moscow accountable. In this regard, we are pleased to announce that the United States has coordinated with the Secretariat to request that, to the maximum extent practicable, U.S.-contributed extrabudgetary funding not be used to fund direct participation of Russian officials in IAEA activities. This is merely one of several actions we are undertaking, and we hope others will join us to apply pressure on Russia, beyond the adoption of today’s Board resolution.
In the long term, the only solution to these problems created by Russia’s full-scale invasion is for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and return control of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities to the competent Ukrainian authorities, which are their rightful owners and remain best equipped to ensure their ongoing safety and security, having done so for decades.
Colleagues, let us rise to this moment. Let us show our support for Ukraine, and for the work of the Agency. Let us demonstrate that this Board will not sit idle in the face of Russia’s assault on Ukraine’s nuclear infrastructure and workforce.
Thank you, Chair.