The United States – and the world – stands with Ukraine
President Joseph R. Biden
U.S. Statement – As Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate – Agenda Item 7 – Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine
Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2023
The United States appreciates the latest report of the Director General and Secretariat staff on the situation in Ukraine and for the Agency’s continued efforts to help reduce the risk of a nuclear incident resulting from President Putin’s decision to continue waging his illegal, unjustifiable, and unprovoked war against Ukraine. We find ourselves here, again, to address the grave threat to core principles of nuclear safety, security, and safeguards posed by Russia’s war. Russia’s continuing brutal attack on Ukraine’s people and civilian infrastructure is beyond irresponsible. To quote the distinguished Ambassador of Albania’s May 30 remarks to the UN Security Council – “Russia’s military has no business in Ukraine’s powerplants, and Russia’s military has no business in Ukraine.”
As the Director General has noted, we meet this week as safety at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant has been made even more precarious by the stunningly irresponsible and brutal destruction of the Kakhovka Dam. The breach of the dam poses an immediate flooding threat downstream and also endangers the primary water supply for the nuclear plant. Like connections to the electrical grid, a reliable supply of water is essential for cooling the reactors and their spent fuel. Of course, Russia knows this.
Russia continues in other ways to heighten the nuclear safety and security risks in Ukraine with its military and other unauthorized operations. Let me give you just a few examples:
First, Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure continue to directly impact the reliability and availability of off-site power lines to all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. In addition to the latest two complete losses of off-site power at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, the Director General’s fifth report notes that one reactor unit at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant was automatically shut down due to grid disturbance or instability.
Second, the report indicates that despite Rosatom’s agreement to facilitate the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya team’s access to the Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant open switchyard, the team has not been granted access to this facility. This raises the question: What authority do Russian officials have to deny international experts access to a facility that Russia does not own? Is there something they are hiding?
Lastly, the report also revealed that the Agency observed increased military presence and military activities in the vicinity of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. We know from imagery released in April by the United Kingdom that Russia is expanding its military presence at the plant itself by placing military emplacements atop the reactors.
These hazardous examples underscore the Director General’s point that all Seven Pillars for Nuclear Safety and Security have been, and continue to be, compromised as a direct result of Russia’s actions. The United States would like to reiterate its appreciation for the efforts made by Director General Grossi to help address the danger. Director General Grossi’s May 30 briefing to the UN Security Council outlined his “Five Concrete Principles” for nuclear safety and security at Zaporizhzhya. These principles are an essential, immediate first step to preventing a catastrophic nuclear incident at the site. This danger will continue so long as Russia refuses to withdraw from these territories and underscores the essential role of the IAEA’s presence in Ukraine. The international community relies on the IAEA to provide objective and impartial reporting on the situation at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities – notwithstanding the unfounded objections and disinformation offered by Russia. We thank the Secretariat for its courageous effort in the face of unprecedented challenges and ask that the Director General report to the Board on the observance of the Five Concrete Principles.
The United States reaffirms its full support for all three IAEA Board Resolutions and the 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 A/RES/ES-11/6, adopted February 23, 2023, 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 occupation and claimed annexations of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya regions of Ukraine, or its earlier occupation of Crimea. We strongly condemn Russia’s violent actions and control of nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. 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 refrain from actions that might be interpreted as recognizing any change in the status of sovereign Ukrainian territory.
The United States applauds the Secretariat’s persistent efforts to support the safety and security of, and to apply safeguards at, Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. We further note the exceedingly difficult conditions at 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 Ukrainian and IAEA personnel at the plant, which must include enabling the safe and timely rotation of Agency staff. We continue our support for the Director General’s leadership to focus international attention on the grave situation at 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. We hope the Director General will be able to travel to Ukraine next week to continue this important work.
We must aim to enable the Agency’s ability to 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 and calls on the Secretariat to unambiguously and immediately report to the Board should Russia delay or impede implementation of Ukraine’s safeguards agreement in any way. As indicated in the Director General’s latest 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.
If Russia wants to show that it is serious about reducing nuclear risks at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, it should remove its weapons and civil and military personnel from Zaporizhzhya, maintain an uninterrupted power supply to Ukraine’s nuclear facilities from the territory under Ukraine’s control, provide a humanitarian corridor to rotate Ukrainian and IAEA personnel, reconnect automatic data transmission of all radiation monitoring systems, refrain from taking any actions that could result in a nuclear incident, and return full control of the plant to the competent Ukrainian authorities.
With these remarks, the United States takes note of the Director General’s fifth report, GOV/2023/30, on Nuclear Safety, Security, and Safeguards in Ukraine.
Thank you, Chair.