New Zealand statement to International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors on the nuclear safety, security, and safeguards implications of the situation in Ukraine (9 March 2022)

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

IAEA Board of Governors: March 2022
The safety, security and safeguards implications of the situation in Ukraine
New Zealand Statement

Thank you Mr Chair,
New Zealand thanks Poland for requesting that the situation in Ukraine be included on our agenda for further discussion this week. It is right that there has been sustained attention by the Board on this unprecedented situation.

Mr Chair,
The grave international concern about the nuclear risks posed by Russia’s war on Ukraine was abundantly clear during our extraordinary Board meeting last week. At that meeting, the Director General outlined seven indispensable principles of nuclear safety and security. This Board adopted a resolution that included a call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease all actions against Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. The threat Russia’s
aggression posed to nuclear safety and security in Ukraine was clearly unacceptable to this Board.

Yet mere hours after we met, Russian troops moved against the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. They shelled it and then took it under military control. They violated the Director General’s first indispensable principle of nuclear safety – that you do not undermine the physical integrity of a nuclear facility. They have since violated two more of those indispensable principles by restricting communications and control by the proper authorities and operators of the facilities at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia. As the Director General noted yesterday, civilian personnel at Chernobyl have not been able to rotate for almost two weeks now. Then this afternoon we learn of the power loss at Chernobyl, contravening a fourth indispensable principle of nuclear safety. Russia’s actions mean that both the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia sites are no longer operating safely. Yes, radiation levels remain technically normal for now. That is not the measure of a NPP operating safely. The DG was clear on those measures. Russia is ignoring them.

The Director General’s updates on the situation have recorded a number of other close calls that demonstrate how Russian attacks have compromised safety and security at other nuclear sites in Ukraine. Additionally, we learnt last night that the IAEA has now lost the data conncetion to its safeguards equipment at Chernobyl. As we said earlier in the week, each moment that Russia violates Ukraine’s sovereignty presents a growing nuclear risk. Russia’s actions imply that nuclear safety and security is only valuable and important until military objectives make it otherwise. Nuclear material and facilities cannot be fair game in a conflict. New Zealand fundamentally rejects this ‘might is right’ approach to nuclear safety and security. It risks potentially ruinous consequences extending far beyond the
borders of Russia and Ukraine. 

We strongly urge the Russian Federation to adhere to this Board’s resolution – to cease its threat to nuclear safety and security in Ukraine. New Zealand fully supports the Director General’s continued efforts to protect the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear material and facilities in the face of Russia’s aggression. This is not the time to sit on the fence – to hope there are no more close calls or worse. The Board must remain seized of this issue until this Russian-made nuclear crisis is addressed.

Thank you.


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