Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, at a UN Security Council Briefing on Nuclear Safety and Security at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant

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May 30, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Director-General Grossi, for briefing the Council on this pressing issue. And I’d like to welcome the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to this meeting.

The United States appreciates the focus and leadership the IAEA has demonstrated in its efforts to help prevent a nuclear calamity in Ukraine, particularly at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. I also extend my heartfelt thanks to the IAEA and Ukrainian staff at Zaporizhzhya, who have labored under unimaginable pressure to prevent a catastrophic incident.

Director-General Grossi, we appreciate the concrete principles you have presented to us today. We urge everyone in this room to support these important principles, just as we urge everyone in this room to support all efforts to avoid a nuclear incident at Zaporizhzhya, an incident that could catastrophically impact both Ukraine and the surrounding region.

The principles laid out today should foster an ongoing discussion about the steps we must take to ensure nuclear safety and security at Zaporizhzhya. I’ll also note that these principles build on the “Seven Indispensable Pillars of Nuclear Safety and Security,” which the Director-General introduced last spring.

But colleagues, we know that one country, a permanent member of this Council, continues to demonstrate its flagrant disregard for these principles. Since March of last year, when Russia illegally seized the Zaporizhzhya plant, the international community has held its breath each time the facility has been hit by shells, each time it has lost external power, each time Russian forces have detained essential staff.

And imagery released in April by the United Kingdom, which showed Russian military emplacements atop reactors at the plant, only exacerbated our concerns about the facility’s nuclear safety. To make matters worse, recent news reports indicate that Moscow has disconnected Zaporizhzhya’s vital radiation monitoring sensors, which means the plant’s data is now being sent to the Russian nuclear regulator.

This is a clear escalation of Russia’s efforts to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and authority over the Zaporizhzhya plant. And this undermines our ability to have confidence in the level of nuclear safety at the plant.

Let me be clear: the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant belongs to Ukraine. And its data must go to Ukraine, not to Russia.

Russia’s reckless actions stand in stark contrast to Ukraine’s responsible behavior. Throughout this conflict, Director-General Grossi has made clear that Ukraine has fully cooperated in implementing safeguards at all its nuclear facilities and that the IAEA has not found any indication of a proliferation concern in Ukraine.

The IAEA’s independent assessments have been essential to verifying the lack of diversion of nuclear material in Ukraine. And the presence of the Agency’s technical experts has helped support the safe and secure operation at all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

Colleagues, those of us who sit on this Council are entrusted with a sacred responsibility to maintain international peace and security. And there is no doubt that Russia’s actions are an attack on the safety and security of the region and the world. And we must stand together and demand President Putin end this madness.

If Russia wants to show that it is serious about reducing nuclear risk at Zaporizhzhya, it can take steps to remove its weapons and civil and military personnel from the plant, maintain an uninterrupted power supply to the plant from the territory under Ukraine’s control, provide a humanitarian corridor to rotate Ukrainian personnel at the plant, to re-connect the plant’s radiation monitoring systems, and return full control of the plant to the competent Ukrainian authorities.

And if Russia wants to show that it is serious about reducing nuclear risk more broadly, it must stop its irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and stop undermining the arms control regime. The United States is also deeply concerned about Russia’s stated intent to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus. We all should be.

It is entirely – entirely – within Moscow’s control to avert a nuclear catastrophe and to end its war of aggression against Ukraine, a war that has caused so much pain, destruction, and death.

The United States will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people and support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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