IAEA Director General Statement to United Nations Security Council (2024)

(As prepared for delivery)

I thank the President of the Security Council in allowing me the opportunity today to update you on IAEA activities concerning safety, security and safeguards in Ukraine. Your own personal conviction in supporting me and the work of the IAEA has been remarkable. I also thank the Council for their continuing support for the IAEA’s efforts. I will also lay out the basic principles needed to prevent a nuclear accident.

I have addressed the Council on the situation in Ukraine four times before, on 4 March, 11 August, 6 September and 27 October last year.

However, I see today’s meeting as the most important one, and I will explain why.

But first I want to briefly update you on what the Agency has been doing in Ukraine.

It is now over 15 months since the beginning of the war.

May I remind you that it is the first time in history that a war is being fought amid the facilities of a major nuclear power programme. This includes several of Ukraine’s five nuclear power plants and other facilities have come under direct shelling, and all NPPs having lost off-site power at some point.

Furthermore, one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants Zaporizhzhya NPP has come under Russian military and operational control.

The IAEA has been closely monitoring the situation and assisting Ukraine every single day since the start of the war.

This assistance has involved the continuous engagement of the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre.

There have been 12 expert missions to Ukraine.

I have personally led seven of them, including two to ZNPP.

Additionally, since 1 September 2022 we have had an IAEA Support and Assistance Mission stationed at Zaporizhzhya NPP, which is literally on the front lines of this war, and we are on the eighth rotation of our dedicated and courageous staff – who have had to cross that front line to undertake this vital work. 23 of our staff have been part of these teams.

And since January this year we have had other dedicated IAEA experts stationed at every other major Ukrainian nuclear site: Rivne NPP South Ukraine NPP Khmelnytskyy NPP and to the Chornobyl NPP – their presence allowing us to provide the international community with reliable information on the safety and security situation at each of those sites as well. Another 58 of our staff have been part of these teams, totalling more than 2350 person-days of our staff in Ukraine.

And I wish to thank the United Nations Secretary General and the Undersecretaries for Safety and Security and for Operational Support once again for their help in making this happen.

Moreover, we have facilitated an international assistance package totalling almost €5 million with 17 deliveries of vital equipment to Ukraine, and I thank MSs for their contributions.

We are putting in place a comprehensive programme of health care assistance including through equipment and psychological support for all Ukrainian nuclear workers.

In addition to our work on nuclear safety and security we are also continuing our vital safeguards verification activities across Ukraine ensuring that there is no diversion of nuclear material for military purposes.

And we are keeping the world informed of the situation at Ukraine’s nuclear sites in more than 160 web statements and updates, four reports and multiple briefings, including to the United Nations General Assembly and to your distinguished selves at Security Council.

Mr. President,

The nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, in particular, continues to be extremely fragile and dangerous.

Military activities continue in the region and may well increase very considerably in the near future.

The plant has been operating on significantly reduced staff, which despite being in temporary shut-down is not sustainable.

And there have been seven occasions when the site lost all off-site power and had to rely on emergency diesel generators, the last line of defence against a nuclear accident, to provide essential cooling of the reactor and spent fuel. The last one, the seventh, occurred just one week ago.

We are fortunate that a nuclear accident has not yet happened. As I said at the IAEA Board of Governors in March - we are rolling a dice and if this continues then one day our luck will run out.

So we must all do everything in our power to minimize the chance that it does.

As the Council knows, since returning from my first of two missions to the Zaporizhzhya NPP last September I have been urging all parties to protect the nuclear safety and security of the plant. This has involved numerous meetings, intensive consultations and exchanges, including at the highest levels in Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

As you would recall, already a year ago I have elaborated the Seven indispensable pillars for ensuring nuclear safety and security during an armed conflict. These are:

  1. The physical integrity of facilities – whether it is the reactors, fuel ponds or radioactive waste stores – must be maintained.
  2. All safety and security systems and equipment must be fully functional at all times.
  3. The operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure.
  4. There must be a secure off-site power supply from the grid for all nuclear sites.
  5. There must be uninterrupted logistical supply chains and transportation to and from the sites.
  6. There must be effective on-site and off-site radiation monitoring systems, and emergency preparedness and response measures.
  7. There mustbe reliable communication with the regulator and others.

These common-sense rules derive from a vast body of IAEA documents, guidelines, and experience. They have been universally quoted and supported. This is encouraging.

A nuclear or radiological accident during the ongoing conflict could have disastrous consequences for the people of Ukraine, for the people of Russia, as well as for neighbouring States, and beyond.

The time has come to be more specific as to what is required.

We must prevent a dangerous release of radioactive material.

To that end, and mindful of the 7 indispensable pillars for nuclear safety and security, I have been working intensively, and in consultation with the leadership of Ukraine, as well as of Russia.

As a result of these intensive consultations, I have identified the following concrete principles to help ensure nuclear safety and security at ZNPP in order to prevent a nuclear accident and ensure the integrity of the plant. I see these commitments as essential to avoid the danger of a catastrophic incident:

  1. There should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant, in particular targeting the reactors, spent fuel storage, other critical infrastructure, or personnel;
  2. ZNPP should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons (i.e. multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and munitions, and tanks) or military personnel that could be used for an attack from the plant;
  3. Off-site power to the plant should not be put at risk. To that effect, all efforts should be made to ensure that off-site power remains available and secure at all times;
  4. All structures, systems and components essential to the safe and secure operation of ZNPP should be protected from attacks or acts of sabotage;
  5. No action should be taken that undermines these principles.

The IAEA experts onsite, namely the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ), will report to the IAEA Director General on the observance of these principles. The Director General will report publicly on any violations of these principles.

I respectfully and solemnly ask both sides to observe these five principles.

I request distinguished Members of the Security Council to unambiguously support them.

Let me say something very clearly: These principles are to no one’s detriment and to everyone’s benefit.

Avoiding a nuclear accident IS possible.

Abiding by the IAEA’s five principles is the way to start.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr President, distinguished colleagues:

The IAEA’s five principles to avoid a nuclear accident are hereby established.

The IAEA intends to start monitoring these principles through its on-site mission.

I thank you for your attention.

IAEA Director General Statement to United Nations Security Council (2024)
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