What is happening at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant

30 December 2022, 12:30 PM

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi was just in Moscow again. And again, his visit came up empty.

In Enerhodar, the number of military vehicles with Chuvash license plates has increased. Soldiers are there with the distinctive red and white electrical tape markers on their sleeves. There are also Kadyrovites there, who have their own special stickers on their cars. As for the presence at the plant itself, according to the information prepared by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine for the prime minister, inspectors from Rosatomnadzor [the Russian nuclear energy authority - ed] have appeared at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.

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Let me remind you that there have been no Ukrainian inspectors from the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate since March 3rd. That is, there is no state supervision over nuclear safety on site from Ukraine.

The IAEA cannot certainly influence these inspectors in any way. They just have to acknowledge their presence and report it in their information releases. And since December 23, the IAEA is apparently on vacation, because there are no notes from either Ukraine or Russia, or updates of information.

The international community has turned out to be powerless against Russia's nuclear terrorism

Now we see that IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi was in Moscow again. And again, his visit ended with nothing. At the same time, the appearance of Rosatomnadzor inspectors suggests that the Russians are not going to give up the Zaporizhzhya NPP. The number of soldiers on-site has also increased. Defensive structures are being built at the industrial site. This is how the international community has turned out to be powerless against Russia's nuclear terrorism.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said that the Yermak-McFaul international expert group on sanctions against the Russian Federation intends to work systematically to make sanctions against Rosatom a reality.

I have seen the draft of this document. It is quite reasonable and logically built. Indeed, in 2021, Rosatom had revenue from the sale of its services and goods of about $9 billion. Its portfolio for the construction of new nuclear power plants is worth $140 billion. This Yermak-McFaul group proposes to introduce two-stage sanctions.

At the first stage: a ban on the supply of uranium concentrate from Russia. And since it does not produce very much on its own territory, (it has a joint venture with Kazakhstan) this link must also be broken. This means personal sanctions against the leadership of Rosatom and the heads of key divisions of its enterprises – personal sanctions against all Rosatom employees who have visited the occupied Zaporizhzhya NPP during this time. Freeze any new contracts with Rosatom for uranium enrichment or reprocessing services. It also calls for a transition period of 4-5 years so that countries that operate Soviet-designed reactors in central Europe can switch to fuel from Westinghouse.

The second package of sanctions is already more drastic, going as far as the nationalization of Rosatom's property abroad. It also includes the reconsideration of all projects with Rosatom’s participation and exclusion of the company from all intergovernmental agreements.

This is all reasonable. But it will not be so easy to implement these sanctions.

First, there will be no consensus in the EU. The first problem is Hungary. They are going to build their 5th and 6th reactors at the Paks nuclear power plant according to a Russian project and with Russian technology. There is also the issue of France. Although it has uranium isotope enrichment technologies, if you look at the statistics, the Russian Federation has up to 40% of isotope enrichment in the world market. Although Moscow supplies less fuel on a global scale than Westinghouse, countries in Central Europe like Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and even Finland are critically dependent on Russian fuel for the time being. Therefore, the process is complex. It requires serious diplomatic work, primarily in the European Union, as well as with such parties as Canada and the United States, because Russian uranium is also bought there.

The only way to ensure that the Russian army leaves the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is through the efforts of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The Russian army there must be kettled. There is no other way.

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