India says it attaches ‘highest importance’ to nuclear safety in Ukraine

After a Russian attack on a nuclear facility in Ukraine, India said on Friday that it attaches “highest importance” to ensuring the safety of the atomic plants while regretting that the situation there has “worsened further”.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the danger from attacks on the nuclear facilities in the country under Russian invasion, India’s Permanent Representative TS Tirumurti said: “India attaches the highest importance to ensuring safety and security of nuclear facilities as any accident involving the nuclear facilities may have severe consequences for public health and the environment.”

“We continue to carefully follow the developments regarding the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear power reactors and facilities,” he said.

Earlier, in a dramatic video call to the Council while a plane, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi gave an assurance that there had been no leak from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant where a building in the complex went up in flames, but the six reactors there were not damaged.

Grossi, who was on his way to Iran for negotiations on resuming its participation in the international agreement on preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons, said that he was ready to go to Ukraine to ensure the safety of the atomic facilities there.

Titumurti said: “We have also noted the latest information available with regard to the nuclear power plants and facilities in Ukraine, including today’s updates provided by the DG (director-general of) IAEA on the current situation.”

“India accords the highest priority to the discharge by the IAEA of its safeguards and monitoring activities, in accordance with its statute in an effective, non-discriminatory and efficient manner,” he added.

United Arab Emirates Permanent Representative Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, who presided over the session recalled the nuclear disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl and warned that an attack on a nuclear facility has the potential to lead to catastrophic and unimaginable consequences.

She said that the nuclear threat would be devastating to humanity.

Ukraine’s Permanent Representative Sergiy Kyslytsya said: “We have survived the night that could have stopped the history of Ukraine and Europe.”

Not just Ukraine that is at risk, but “it is the world, it is humanity”, he said.

“We all waited to exhale as we watched the horrific situation unfold in real-time,” US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

She asked Russia to stop the advance on another nuclear plant from which its troops were 20 miles away.

Several countries including Kenya and Brazil pointed out that attacks on nuclear power plants are prohibited under an annexe to the Geneva Conventions that lay down the international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in war.

Tirumurti turned his attention to the Indians stuck in Ukraine.

“While we are discussing the nuclear dimension of an unfolding conflict, this Council must acknowledge that there is a pressing humanitarian crisis confronting us in Ukraine, where safety and security of innocent civilians including several thousand Indian nationals, in particular, students are at stake,” he said.

He said that he hoped that the second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine would lead to the establishment of a safe corridor for their evacuation.

Kyslytsya asked Russia’s Permanent Representative Vasily Nebenzia to appeal to Moscow to create a safe corridor for foreign students to leave Ukraine.

Nebenzia denied that Russian troops had attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the fire was the result of actions by Ukrainians.

Russian troops had earlier taken control of Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 disaster that continues to take a toll in lives.

Tirumurti said that Prime Minister had reiterated in his conversations with global leaders including the Russian Federation and Ukraine that “differences must be resolved through sustained dialogue and diplomacy”.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed @arulouis)

20220305-002002

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