U.S. Statement – As Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate – Agenda Item 6 – Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine
Vienna, Austria, November 23, 2023
The United States welcomes the latest report from the Director General on the situation in Ukraine and expresses deep gratitude for the Secretariat’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.
Russia’s actions in Ukraine continue to defy core principles of nuclear safety, security, and safeguards which underlie the confident, peaceful use of nuclear facilities in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world. As indicated in the Director General’s report, though challenges remain, the Agency is working closely and tirelessly with Ukrainian authorities to maintain the stability of all Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities, most notably at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.
The Director General’s report emphasized the challenging situation at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, where most of the Seven Pillars for Nuclear Safety and Security remain compromised. It is no secret that this situation is a direct result of Russia’s actions. The report notes the Agency’s ability to monitor observance and assesses implementation of the “Five Concrete Principles” for nuclear safety and security at the Zaporizhzhya plant is hindered by limitations on site access and on information provided by the Russian personnel who control the site. We note the positive development that Agency staff was recently granted unrestricted access to all main control rooms at the site, but this would not even be an issue if Russia had heeded the calls of this Board and withdrawn its personnel from Ukraine’s plant and territory.
We also note that the Agency no longer reports observing anti-personnel mines inside perimeter fences of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant but remain concerned over the possibility of mines elsewhere on the site, which would directly threaten the lives of plant personnel and the plant’s safety and security. A nuclear power plant is no place for mines. We continue to call for the timely and unrestricted access to all areas of the plant, including the turbine halls, so that the Agency can monitor the implementation of all Five Concrete Principles. Furthermore, I would like to reiterate if Russia genuinely wanted to show it is serious about the safety and security of Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, it should focus less on cosmetic activities and community outreach such as the new athletic facilities and wellness programs Russia continues to talk about and focus more instead on safety. There are many additional steps it should take, to include the obvious: remove its weapons and personnel from the plant, maintain an uninterrupted power supply at and around the plant, eliminate the undue pressure on Ukrainian staff at the plant, make maintenance at the site a priority, reconnect automatic data transmission of all radiation monitoring systems through Ukraine’s already established mechanism, heed the calls of the Ukrainian regulator to bring all reactor units to cold shutdown status, refrain from taking any actions that could result in a nuclear incident, and return full control of the plant to the competent Ukrainian authorities. We are here, still addressing the dangerous situation at the Zaporizhzhya plant, because Russia has failed to take these essential steps.
The United States fully appreciates the work of the Agency and would like to recognize the efforts made by Director General Grossi and the IAEA staff who join Ukrainian authorities to courageously support nuclear safety and security at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, including activities related to the safe and secure use of radioactive sources. The international community must pay attention to the human element of this crisis and the extraordinary activities undertaken to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. We note the exceedingly difficult conditions at and around the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, as well as the stressful and unsustainable conditions for Ukrainian and IAEA personnel operating within the Chornobyl exclusion zone, and stress the importance of their continued safety and well-being. Such care is a vital element to maintaining qualified Ukrainian personnel in the face of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. Moreover, at the Zaporizhzhya plant, we are tracking the drastic reduction in authorized, experienced Ukrainian operating staff, including those responsible for the plant’s maintenance activities which has become an increasing concern, particularly regarding recent technical issues at Units 5 and 6. Especially alarming is the presence of only 120 licensed operators, with only 30 percent of these operators holding valid Ukrainian licenses to run its plant. It is further disturbing that the IAEA staff have observed that newly recruited main control room operators and some other staff at the Zaporizhzhya plant appeared unfamiliar with essential technical information and procedures. Russia’s actions are causing these staffing challenges, which seriously jeopardize nuclear safety and security at the plant. The United States notes the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine is the only competent authority authorized to issue the operating license for the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Russia’s regulator Rostekhnadzor has no authority to issue such a license or to oversee the operation of the plant. All unauthorized regulatory actions taken by Rostekhnadzor at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, including its stated intent to restart power production, are cause for concern due to the increased risk to nuclear safety and the further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. The Zaporizhzhya facility remains a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, subject to Ukrainian regulatory authority.
The United States reaffirms its full support for all three IAEA Board Resolutions, the 67th IAEA General Conference Resolution and the UN General Assembly resolution 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,” as well as previous UN General Assembly resolutions regarding Ukraine. We will never recognize the Russian Federation’s purported annexations of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya regions of Ukraine, or its earlier purported annexation of Crimea. These areas are all Ukrainian territory, and all facilities located there unequivocally belong to Ukraine, including the Zaporizhzhya plant. 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 consistent 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.
We are committed to enabling the Agency to meet the pressing needs in Ukraine while also continuing to carry out its essential work with other Member States. We encourage all Member States that are in a position to do so to continue supporting, with relevant resources, the Agency’s efforts to fulfill its nuclear safety, security, and safeguards mission in Ukraine.
With these remarks, the United States takes note of the Director General’s seventh report, GOV/2023/59, on Nuclear Safety, Security, and Safeguards in Ukraine and request that the report be made public.
Thank you, Chair.