Attacks on the Zaporozhye nuclear plant are dangerously foolish

After meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Sochi several weeks ago, IAEA’s Grossi described the situation around the ZNPP as having “evolved” from the early days of the conflict when it suffered “direct hits”. Picture: Alexander Joe/Reuters

After meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Sochi several weeks ago, IAEA’s Grossi described the situation around the ZNPP as having “evolved” from the early days of the conflict when it suffered “direct hits”. Picture: Alexander Joe/Reuters

Published Jun 9, 2024


THIS week Russia’s head of state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev, described the technical condition of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine, which under the control of Russia, as “absolutely safe”.

He was briefing the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi in Kaliningrad.

The briefing was crucial. The ZNPP has been at the centre of both propaganda warfare and the oftentimes threats of shelling by the Ukrainian forces who in turn accuse the Russians of threatening to blow up the power plant.

Oftentimes the ZNPP has been caught in the crossfire, and a potential for a nuclear catastrophe cannot be ruled. In recent times, Likhachev said, “pressure from the Ukrainian forces has increased, so has the number of drone attacks, although most of them are repelled”.

This is the danger that the Western backers of Ukraine – the US, Germany and France, among others, are failing to speak out against.

In the ensuing Western propaganda war against Moscow since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in 2022, Russia’s ability to protect the ZNPP, which it seized very early in its “Special Military Operation” - has been undermined.

On the other hand, the Russian military has revealed in various briefings at different times about how it has thwarted attempts by the Ukrainian forces to attack the plant by different means.

The logic at face value seems to be an attempt to discredit the capability and responsibility of the Russian forces guarding the plant. The Kremlin has recently posed the question: “How can we attack a nuclear plant under our guard?”

Well, let me paraphrase: “How the Russian forces endanger their lives by attempting to bomb a nuclear plant under their control? Can they be so foolish as to endanger their own lives?”

The Western powers have appealed to the IAEA to help ensure that there would be no “accident” at the ZNPP. As a result, the IAEA has, to its great credit, continuously engaged directly with Russia’s Rosatom in an effort to ensure the safety of the nuclear plant and the personnel.

The Ukrainians seem hell-bent to make life miserable for the Russian forces manning the plant, which has become dormant.

When asked if the IAEA will help in preventing a nuclear accident at the power plant as evidence of escalation abounds, particularly since Ukraine has been provided with advanced weapons from the US and Europe – and also recently granted the permission to target Russian positions across the border, the IAEA said: “The IAEA’s primary role is to promote nuclear safety and prevent accidents. While they can provide guidance and expertise, the actual prevention of accidents at specific plants, such as ZNPP, depends on local authorities and international cooperation. The situation remains complex, and the IAEA continues to monitor and advise as needed,” the statement read.

The IAEA deserves great credit for not only monitoring the situation at the ZNPP, but also engaging in direct face-to-face discussions with the Russian authorities.

Confrontation at times such as these will be ill-advised. After all, the keys to the ZNPP, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, are in the hands of Rosatom.

Also, after meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Sochi several weeks ago, IAEA’s Grossi described the situation around the ZNPP as having “evolved” from the early days of the conflict when it suffered “direct hits”.

This stability must be credited to the Russian forces who are keeping a watchful eye over the plant, and ensuring that it was kept out of harm’s way.

These are important developments about the safety and security of the ZNPP, particularly as all sides agree that while the conflict continues, the plant remains under the real possibility of a deadly “nuclear accident” .

The “nuclear accident” possibility is kept real and alive by the ongoing conflict whose end does not seem near. Instead of efforts to de-escalate, the West refuses Russia’s overtures to negotiate a ceasefire, instead pumping more weapons into the Kiev regime and authorising it to attack Russia on Russian soil.

This dangerous escalation triggered former US president Donald Trump to warn this week that under President Joe Biden, the US lacks courageous leadership to end the Ukrainian war. Instead, Trump warned that under his successor, there is a real threat of the outbreak of a World War III, which will be fought with nukes.

“We have a chance of going into World War III because of our leader,” he told Fox News in an exclusive interview. “It is currently the most dangerous time in the history of our country,” he added.

His remarks followed a critical report in the influential Wall Street Journal, which was also published this week, questioning the state of President Biden’s health by claiming he was showing “signs of slipping” behind closed doors.

Both Trump and Biden are highly likely to be the key contestants in America’s national elections on November 6. In the coming weeks, the two men are expected to participate in the traditional televised TV debate. Trump is expected to attack Biden’s foreign policy, particularly in Ukraine and in Nato, where the US is a major funder once more since Trump left office.

Trump’s views on the dangers of a nuclear escalation, and even war, are forthright. In the event of nuclear war between the US and Russia, “nothing will matter because practically nothing will be here anymore”, he said, before adding: “This is obliteration. Maybe world obliteration. And we have a man that is incapable of even discussing it.”

Trump described the Ukraine conflict as the world’s singular major causal factor to his fears of the possible obliteration of the world through a nuclear war that can be avoided.

The Kremlin warned through President Putin that the US and its allies “getting directly involved in the (Ukraine) war against us” is an escalation that “leads to very serious problems”.

The activities around the ZNPP are therefore of great significance, perhaps more than meets the eye. They are a microcosm of the possibility of the outbreak of a major world war that the world can do without, and the world does not deserve.

The IAEA will do better by ensuring that the organisation cannot be used for propaganda against Moscow in the US-led proxy war against Russia, as veteran foreign minister Sergey Lavrov puts it.

The role of the IAEA in the regulation and monitoring of nuclear activities is too important to degenerate into a political football. The Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant must not be a target for military attack, and the Ukrainian fighters must be called out for playing with fire.

* Makoe is Founder and Editor-in-Chief: Global South Media Network. The views expressed here are his own.