IAEA Board of Governors Meeting – Agenda Item 7 -Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine
U.S. Statement as Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate
Vienna, Austria, March 9, 2023
The United States aligns itself with the Joint Statement delivered by the distinguished Governor of Canada and recalls the three previous Board resolutions (GOV/2022/71, GOV/2022/58, and GOV/2022/17) that deplore the Russian Federation’s violent actions against Ukrainian nuclear facilities and reject Russian claims of sovereignty and ownership. Today, here in Vienna, just over a year to the day after Russia seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant on March 4, 2022, we must continue holding Moscow to account. I would like to offer some additional remarks in my national capacity.
Let me begin by expressing great appreciation for the latest high-quality and detailed report of the Director General and for his powerful intervention this morning and Secretariat staff on the situation in Ukraine and for the Agency’s continued efforts to mitigate the intensifying crises Russia has precipitated. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves here, yet again, to address the grave threat to core principles of nuclear safety, security, and safeguards caused by Putin’s brutal and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine. As we’ve said before, the irresponsible actions by one Member State jeopardize not only international peace and security writ large, but also the overall mission and specific objectives of the Agency. And once again, we call on Board members to express their condemnation of the reckless and inhumane actions of a fellow Board member and to take meaningful action to demonstrate our utter rejection of its cynical lies and disregard for the IAEA, this Board, and for the principles of international conventions of nuclear safety and security, to which it is party. It is our collective duty to uphold the nuclear nonproliferation regime and peaceful use of nuclear energy, and the norms that reinforce them which thereby enable the Agency’s 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 a year ago, the Board has considered the issue both in special and regular sessions and has adopted three resolutions in response. These resolutions deplored Russia’s actions against Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, called for Russia to cease all actions at or against those facilities in order for competent Ukrainian authorities to regain full control, and confirmed that the Board does not recognize Moscow’s attempt to take ownership of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant or its attempted illegal annexation of the Ukrainian territory on which the plant is located. Needless to say, following the March 2022 special session of the Board at which one of these resolutions was adopted, Russia immediately disregarded the Board’s call and seized the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant the very next day. Over a year later, Russia continues to defy calls to vacate and return control of the plant to its rightful owners. Instead, Russia has purported to assert its control and ownership of Ukraine’s civilian nuclear infrastructure in ways that undermine the IAEA’s nuclear safety, security, and safeguards missions.
Russia has repeatedly failed to take the necessary and prudent steps to minimize nuclear safety and security risks. Instead, Russia’s actions have only heightened them. Let me give you just a few examples:
First, Russia’s irresponsible and nefarious actions now include blocking communications between Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and its Ukrainian regulator, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine. As indicated in the Director General’s fourth report, the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya confirmed that there has been no official communication between the power plant and its regulator since November 2022. Ensuring reliable communications with the regulator and others is one of the Director General’s Seven Pillars of Nuclear Safety and Security. The latest report also highlights that the competing appointments of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant leadership between Energoatom and Rostechnadzor – the latter of which does not belong at the site – only complicates communication problems.
Second, the Director General’s report also indicates that on several occasions, the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya requested the removal of unauthorized military vehicles and stores in the turbine halls of Units 1 and 2 of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, but that no action was taken and that the vehicles and stores remain. Moreover, the report also states that work to implement modifications to the physical protection system of the plant’s dry spent fuel storage facility continued and that modifications were completed by a Russian contractor, despite not having been authorized by Ukraine’s nuclear regulator.
Further, Russia’s continued attacks against Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure are no longer only impacting Zaporizhzhya but are now directly impacting the stability of external power at all of Ukraine’s operating nuclear power plants. As the report indicates—and the events of today make even more clear, “frequent attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have affected the reliability and availability of the off-site power lines to all the operating NPPs,” undermining yet another one of the Seven Pillars: the need for secure off-site power supply from the grid for all nuclear sites. Indeed, Russia’s actions, which also include the mistreatment of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant staff, have compromised and continue to compromise every one of the Seven Pillars and create grave risks for safety at the plant and beyond.
The United States reaffirms its full support for UN General Assembly resolutions A/RES/ES-11/4, adopted October 12, 2022, and entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations” and also A/RES/ES-11/6, adopted February 23 and entitled “Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.” 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 violent actions and control of nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. Any such annexation attempts are null and void and have no legal effect. We continue to take targeted actions in response. Last month, we imposed new sanctions against those involved in Russia’s illegitimate control of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. My government welcomes and reiterates the importance of the Agency’s commitment to act in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolutions and Board resolution GOV/2022/71, continue to fully respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to refrain from actions that appear to recognize any change in the status of sovereign Ukrainian territory.
The United States applauds the Secretariat’s persistent work to support and advance the safety and security of, and to apply safeguards at, Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, including the recent establishment of a continuous IAEA presence at the sites. We further note the exceedingly difficult conditions in and around Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and underscore the need to address the human element of this crisis, particularly, the continued safety and well-being of the brave, hard-working, and professional Ukrainian and IAEA personnel at the plant, which must include enabling the safe, timely, and regular rotation of Agency staff. We continue our support for the Director General’s leadership to focus international attention on the imperative to protect Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and his commitment to provide the needed assistance and expertise to help prevent a potential nuclear disaster, despite Russia’s egregiously irresponsible actions.
The IAEA is undoubtedly facing unprecedented resource challenges at a defining moment, and we must help the Agency meet the needs in Ukraine while also fulfilling the routine requests of its other Member States. We encourage all Member States to continue supporting, where possible, the Agency’s needs as it works to fulfill its nuclear safety, security, and safeguards mission in Ukraine.
The United States welcomes that the IAEA has been able to continue conducting essential safeguards activities at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. As indicated in the Director General’s report, 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.” Ukraine’s exemplary nonproliferation record continues despite Russian actions and irrespective of Moscow’s fabrications. In January, the Director General debunked Russia’s fabricated claims that Ukraine was storing military weapons at its nuclear facilities – in stark contrast to Russia’s own actions at the Zaporizhzhya plant.
Let me close by expressing my country’s deep admiration for the People of Ukraine who have shown firm resistance and resolve in their ongoing battle to defend their territory. A year into this conflict, the international community remains steadfast in upholding our shared values, including the principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity that are the foundation of international peace and security, and accountability for violations of international law, including Russia’s war of aggression. As we saw in New York on February 23, by overwhelmingly voting in favor of the UN General Assembly resolution, the international community stands firmly in support of the rules-based international order, and speaks with one voice to demand Russia’s full, immediate, and unconditional withdrawal from all of Ukraine’s territory.
With these remarks, the United States takes note of the Director General’s fourth report, GOV/2023/10, on Nuclear Safety, Security, and Safeguards in Ukraine.
Colleagues, let us rise to this moment. Ukraine, we stand with you.
Thank you, Chair.