27 August, 02:28 PM

Russia blocks key UN document on nuclear weapons over issue of control over Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya NPP

Russia has blocked an agreement at the United Nations aimed at bolstering the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) due to a clause on control over the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), The Guardian and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported on Aug. 27.

After a month of debate and negotiations between 191 countries, the United Nations failed to agree on a joint statement.

The closing session was put off for more than four hours over Russian refusal to agree to a lengthy statement of support for the NPT that included a reference to the ZNPP, which is occupied by Russian forces close to the frontline in Ukraine’s south-east.

A paragraph in the final draft text stressed “the paramount importance of ensuring control by Ukraine’s competent authorities of nuclear facilities … such as the Zaporizhzhya NPP.”

The draft statement also referred to the ZNPP four times and expressed “grave concern for the military activities” near it.

The Russian delegation was the only one to speak against the agreed text, but blamed the breakdown of the conference on Ukraine and its “protectors,” calling the negotiations a “one-sided game.”

But Sarah Bidgood, the director of the Eurasia nonproliferation program at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, said the NPT was not irreparably broken, and that every other country would have accepted the text.

“The bigger takeaway for me is just how far-reaching the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine has become,” she said.

“Even at some of the darkest moments of the cold war, cooperation in support of the NPT was often possible. But what we saw at the final plenary today does not bode well for the future of nuclear diplomacy, including on issues like arms control.”

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is a multilateral international treaty aimed at disarming states that have nuclear weapons and preventing them from being acquired by countries that do not have them, creating ample opportunities for the peaceful use of atomic energy. It was adopted in 1968. As of today, nine states have nuclear warheads.

For the first time since the facility became operational, the ZNPP was disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid on Aug. 25. Three out of four connecting power lines at the ZNPP had previously been damaged by Russian troops stationed at the power plant.

The ZNPP was once again connected to Ukraine’s power grid on Aug. 26 and continues to generate electricity for the country.

The Zaporizhzhya NPP is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and has been occupied by Russian forces since March 4. Several ZNPP facilities have been damaged by Russian shelling, and the station’s employees are being held captive by the occupying troops.

The Kremlin uses the facility as cover for its forces, as Ukraine is unable return fire due to the risk of causing a nuclear disaster.

Recently-emerged footage showed numerous Russian military vehicles parked inside the main turbine hall of the facility, some 150 meters away from the nearest reactor.

Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom warned on Aug. 19 that Russia is planning to disconnect the facility from Ukraine’s power grid, which would put the reactor cooling system offline.

The head of the Zaporizhzhya regional military administration, Oleksandr Starukh, on Aug. 16 called on the residents of the nearby town of Enerhodar to evacuate due to the shelling of the ZNPP. He said that in the event of an accident, about 400,000 people would have to be evacuated from two neighboring oblasts.

Kyiv has caleds on the IAEA and the UN to mount a monitoring mission to stabilize the situation at the ZNPP.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the proposed UN and IAEA mission with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a meeting in Lviv on Aug. 18.

The UN says it is ready to support any IAEA mission from Kyiv to the ZNPP. According to Bloomberg, the IAEA wants to visit the plant before Sept. 5.

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