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Editorial: Russia must immediately withdraw from nuclear power plant in Ukraine

The foolish behavior of using a nuclear power plant as a military position could lead to a terrible disaster. Russia should accept the call of the international community and withdraw its troops from the nuclear power plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released a report on an investigation it conducted in early September into the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, held by the Russian military in southern Ukraine.

The U.N. atomic watchdog called for an immediate halt to attacks, saying shelling damage had been observed at several facilities, including a building near the reactors that houses radioactive waste. The agency also called for the establishment of a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the nuclear power plant with the aim of creating a de facto demilitarized zone.

The Russian military attacked the Zaporizhzhia facility in March, shortly after the start of its invasion of Ukraine. Since then, the illegal occupation has continued. It is obvious that Russia’s despicable tactic of using an active nuclear power plant for its military operations is causing a crisis.

Explaining the report at a U.N. Security Council meeting, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi urged the international community to respond to the issue as soon as possible, saying that unlike nuclear disasters at Chornobyl and elsewhere, this time “there is an opportunity to prevent certain events from happening.”

An accident at Zaporizhzhia, one of Europe’s largest nuclear power plants, could spread radioactive materials not only to Ukraine but also to neighboring countries. Is Russia aware of this fact’s significance?

The Ukrainian engineers currently operating the nuclear power plant have been under the control of the Russian military. The IAEA inspectors expressed concern, saying the engineers were under constant high stress and pressure, a situation that could “lead to increased human error with implications for nuclear safety.”

The IAEA has decided to permanently station experts at the nuclear power plant. There is a need to continue monitoring the situation to prevent unforeseen circumstances. It is hoped that the IAEA staff will keep an eye on the Ukrainian engineers to ensure that they are not placed in an even worse environment.

The shelling of the Zaporizhzhia facility has intensified since August. Russia and Ukraine have each claimed the attacks are being carried out by the other.

Regarding the attacks on the nuclear power plant, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council meeting, “There is no guarantee that there won’t be serious consequences, and the responsibility for that lies fully with Kyiv and its Western backers.”

This is inexpressibly appalling. There is no doubt that Russian aggression is the culprit behind it all.

China, a permanent member of the Security Council, has given tacit approval to the Russian aggression. Unless China urges Russia to act in line with the international community, Beijing will not be able to fulfill its responsibilities as a major power. If it remains on the sidelines, China, like Russia, will be seen as a disrupter of the international order.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2022)

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