Friday, 19. July 2024

Petition from the UN Commission on the Status of Women

Statement on the Heightened Threat of Nuclear Disaster as a Consequence of the Russian Federation’s War against Ukraine

Petition from the NGO Forum of the 66th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

Participants at the NGO Forum of the 66th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women gathered on 25 March 2022 to express their solidarity with Ukraine and to discuss and draw attention to the danger that the world faces from the threat of a nuclear disaster.  It was agreed that a statement be sent to all stakeholders to raise awareness of this critical issue.

We, the undersigned, express our extreme concern that the actions taken by the Russian Federation since 24 February, an escalation of an unprovoked and brutal war of choice against Ukraine, have resulted in an untenable situation of global danger. The seizure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and Exclusion Zone on 24 February 2022 by Russian troops, as well as the seizure of the southeast Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station on 3 March 2022 have exposed Ukraine, neighboring countries and potentially the world, to a cataclysmic nuclear threat.  

After repeated requests to visit Ukraine, we welcome the permission granted to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi,  to travel to Ukraine to discuss urgent technical assistance needed to ensure the safety and security of the country’s nuclear facilities and to help avert the risk of an accident that could endanger all nations and the environment. However, two of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities remain under the complete control of the Russian military.
We demand that experts from the IAEA have immediate and unfettered access to all nuclear facilities in Ukraine, as well as access to all required information. Russian military forces must immediately and fully withdraw from Ukraine in order to allow for the full risk assessment of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities to be undertaken, along with the implementation of corrective action to comply with international nuclear safety and security standards.

The irresponsible actions of the Russian occupying forces have compromised the physical integrity of the nuclear reactors including their power supply, disrupted essential management routines including the rotation of work personnel, disabled safety controls including radiation monitoring systems, and disrupted vital information flows that prevent the careful monitoring of the overall stability of Ukraine’s fifteen reactors.

On 2 March 2022, the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi outlined seven indispensable pillars for nuclear safety and security, many of which have been breached in Ukraine:

1) The physical integrity of the facilities – whether it is the reactors, fuel ponds, or radioactive waste stores – must be maintained. As a consequence of Russian military activity, the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the full area of the Exclusion Zone are endangered. The transport and storage of weapons in the area, if exploded, would result in a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. Wildfires that occur naturally in the Chornobyl area, which is located approximately 100 kilometers north of Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv, are currently exacerbated by dry weather conditions, increasing the risk of reaching spent fuel storage and radioactive waste management facilities. In the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in southeastern Ukraine, Russian troops detonated bombs that had been embedded in the walls of neighboring structures in the compound.  

2) All safety and security systems and equipment must be fully functional at all times. The operation of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant was interrupted on 24 February 2022, which caused serious alarm within the international community.

3) The operating staff must be able to fulfil their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure. From 26 February to 21 March 2022, the staff at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant was denied rotation, although partial rotation was allowed on 20 March. Staff is under stress, harassed by Russian troops and kept under surveillance.

4) For all nuclear sites, secure, off-site power supply from the grid must exist. According to Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s primary energy supplier, the Chornobyl nuclear power plant suffered a cut in its electric supply on 9 March 2022 due to damage caused to power lines by Russian troops’ activity. Fighting in the area prevented repair work on the power lines. Power was eventually restored using diesel-powered generators, which allowed for the continued cooling of water pools surrounding the spent nuclear fuel, however, inadequate power can lead to catastrophic damage.

5) There must be uninterrupted logistical supply chains and transportation to and from the sites. Presently, because of the military occupation and continued fighting in the region, neither Ukraine nor the international community can guarantee a continuous supply chain to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Of additional concern is the lack of adequate training of Russian occupying forces, including their underestimation of the potential dangers.

6) There must be effective on-site and off-site radiation monitoring systems and emergency preparedness and response measures.  According to a report released 23 March 2022 by the Ukrainian State Agency for Exclusion Zone Management, "The Russian occupiers looted and destroyed the modern Central Analytical Laboratory in Chornobyl, which is a unique system with powerful analytical capabilities, which can provide services at any stage of radioactive waste management, from air conditioning to disposal, as well as research and technology development." At present, essential monitoring information is unavailable.

7) There must be reliable communications with the regulator and others. Communication between the Russian occupants and the Ukrainian atomic regulation authorities is unreliable due to the conflict situation exacerbated by insufficient training of the occupying forces. On 11 March 2022, shortly after the power supply to the Chornobyl nuclear power plant was cut, the government of Ukraine informed the IAEA that all communications had been lost. Previously, staff at the plant communicated with Ukrainian regulatory authorities by email.

Taken together, these violations of the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security are a serious threat which must be addressed urgently by the international community. We demand that the IAEA be allowed unfettered access to all the nuclear facilities in Ukraine as well as to information needed to ensure that the fifteen nuclear sites, which include the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, are operated and managed safely. It is imperative that Russia immediately withdraws from Ukraine and ends this unprovoked aggression.


National Council of Women of Ukraine
World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations