UN nuclear watchdog convenes emergency meeting to discuss Ukraine conflict

VIENNA, Austria – The UN’s nuclear watchdog convened a meeting of its governing body on Sunday to discuss the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, days after troops from Moscow seized control of the site of Chernobyl.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that the meeting of its board of governors would be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at its headquarters in Vienna.

Ukraine has four active nuclear power plants, as well as nuclear waste repositories like Chernobyl, and there are fears of the possible consequences if they were damaged in the fighting.

Chernobyl was the site of the worst nuclear accident in history in 1986, and on Thursday the site fell to Russian troops.

Ukrainian authorities said radiation levels had increased there following the Russian takeover, but the IAEA said levels remained low and “presented no danger to the public”.

Also on Sunday, the IAEA said it had been informed by Ukraine that “missiles hit the site of a radioactive waste storage facility in Kyiv overnight, but there were no reports of damage to the building or any indication of a radioactive release”.

Ukrainian troops recover unexploded shells after a fight with a Russian raiding party in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on February 26, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

The incident came a day after Ukrainian officials said an electrical transformer at a similar disposal facility near the northeastern city of Kharkiv had been damaged, but again no radioactive release had not been reported.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said such incidents “highlight the very real risk that facilities containing radioactive material will suffer damage during the conflict, with potentially serious consequences for human health and the environment.” ‘environment”.

“Once again, I strongly and urgently call on all parties to refrain from any military or other action that could threaten the safety and security of these facilities,” he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday he was putting Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert because Western countries were taking “unfriendly” action against his country in the wake of the invasion.

Wednesday’s IAEA meeting will take place days before a scheduled meeting of the board of governors and coincides with a crucial phase in efforts to fully restore the 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia took part in talks on reviving the deal in Vienna, with their success or failure widely expected from negotiations in the next days.

The United States participated indirectly in the talks.

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