Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

To protect nuclear power plants in Ukraine
SANO Toshio / Atomic Energy Commissioner, Cabinet Office

May 2, 2023
While much of the focus on Russia's military invasion of Ukraine has been on the threat of nuclear weapons being used, the focus should also be on attacks on nuclear facilities, which are expected to cause extensive damage.

Russia occupied and attacked the Chornobyl nuclear power plant immediately after its military invasion of Ukraine last year, and then the Zaporizha nuclear power plant in March. Since then, there have been repeated battles in the vicinity of the Zaporizha plant, and the situation remains one of the most serious in history in terms of nuclear safety. Attacks on nuclear power plants are prohibited by the Geneva Conventions (international wartime law), as are attacks on dams and dikes that have "dangerous forces built into them.” This is because their destruction would cause devastating humanitarian damage to the civilian population.

This paper proposes measures that the international community can take to protect Ukrainian nuclear power plants from Russian aggression.

What is happening to Ukraine's nuclear facilities?
First of all, the most worrisome aspect of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is the loss of external power supply, which has already been cut off six times by March of this year. Although the power has been somehow restored each time, there is no doubt that the situation is extremely dangerous. In addition, the director of the power plant has been detained and approximately 50 employees are under detention, and there are concerns about the impact of psychological coercion on the safe operation of the plant. In response, in early September last year, the IAEA Director General R. Grossi proposed to the UN Security Council the establishment of a "Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone" around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, and negotiations have continued with the Russian and Ukrainian authorities since then, but the zone has yet to be realized.

The South Ukrainian nuclear power plant and the Riune and Khmelinitsky nuclear power plants in western Ukraine also suffered temporary losses of external power due to missile attacks and artillery shelling. The Chornobyl nuclear power plant, now covered by a sarcophagus, was occupied at the beginning of the military invasion, and high radiation levels were observed for a time, probably due to the repeated shelling and digging of the soil. After the withdrawal of Russian troops, an IAEA mission visited the plant to check the safety status of the reactor.

As for other nuclear facilities, in February, part of the waste facility in Halikiwu was destroyed and a missile landed on the waste storage facility in Kiew, and similar situations have occurred at other research facilities.

How did the international community respond?
The international community, including the United Nations, the G20, and the G7, have all harshly condemned Russia's aggression, and the International Court of Justice, based on Ukraine's complaint, has issued provisional measures demanding Russia to immediately suspend its military activities.

From the beginning, the IAEA has provided maximum support by setting up an emergency center, providing equipment and technical cooperation needed by Ukraine, constant local information, and conducting environmental monitoring. The Board of Governors has requested that the management of all nuclear facilities be returned to Ukraine and has also stationed staff at the Zaporizha Nuclear Power Plant from early on, and since January of this year, staff have been stationed at nuclear power plants throughout Ukraine.

The UN convened several emergency special sessions of the General Assembly, adopting resolutions of condemnation and withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied territories, and the Human Rights Council proposed a special investigation into Russian actions. Secretary General Guterres also visited Moscow and met with President Putin to mediate the establishment of humanitarian corridors and grain exports, but has left specific actions focused on ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants to the IAEA.

The EU Joint Research Center has deployed a network of 5,100 radioactivity monitoring stations in 39 countries, including Europe, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia, and has developed emergency response measures, such as providing information and warnings to EU member states and introducing restrictions on food and livestock feed, in case of an emergency situation such as the use of nuclear weapons or a nuclear accident that could occur in Ukraine.

What can we do now?
In light of this situation, first and foremost, the urgent task is to protect Ukraine's nuclear power plants, especially one in Zaporizha and related facilities. What contribution can the international community make, in addition to strongly supporting the IAEA's activities?

First, it is important to appeal to Russia via BRICS and CIS leaders close to President Putin, through diplomatic efforts, about the inhumane consequences if anything should happen to the Ukrainian nuclear power plant. Indian Prime Minister Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan's President Tokayev, and others are concerned about this, especially in light of China's 12-point proposal announced in February, which states that "China opposes armed attacks on nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes.” It will be necessary to continue sending messages that reach the ears of President Putin via the leaders of these countries friendly to Russia.

Second, it would be beneficial to mobilize the voices of countries that possess nuclear power plants. An international conference could be convened to propose effective measures for the safety and protection of nuclear power plants in wartime, now that 30 countries plus Taiwan have nuclear power plants. This effort could also serve as a preparatory meeting for the formation of new norms on this issue after the war in Ukraine.

Third, the UN General Assembly could be utilized.
With the Security Council currently dysfunctional due to Russia's use of its veto power, the UN General Assembly should take effective measures. Specifically, the dispatch of peacekeepers by the General Assembly should be explored. Thus, the UN can support the realization of a "Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zones" proposed by Director General R. Grossi.

An example of the General Assembly organizing a PKO while the Security Council is dysfunctional due to its veto power is the dispatch of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) based on the "Uniting for Peace Resolution" during the Suez uprising, or the Second Middle East War. This possibility should be pursued again this time. The dispatch of PKOs by the General Assembly is premised on the three principles of dispatch, in particular, the acceptance by the parties to the conflict. For this purpose, Russia's consent and, if possible, a limited ceasefire agreement in the Zaporizhia region would be desirable. The UN Secretary-General and willing countries should actively intervene (offer good offices) to realize the IAEA's concept of a "protection zone" in the Zaporizhia region. Cooperation from countries such as Kazakhstan, which is sensitive to radiation damage due to the large number of people exposed to radiation in the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site during the Soviet era, may be possible. Although Director General Grossi is currently making a solitary effort to realize a "protection zone," it may be too much of a burden to leave this issue to the IAEA.

The nuclear issue in Russia's invasion of Ukraine is not limited to the threat of nuclear weapons use, but also how to protect nuclear power plants to prevent serious accidents. There is still much we can do in this regard. Japan has been a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council since January this year and also holds the presidency of the G7, and I hope that Japan will exercise proactive leadership on these issues.

Toshio Sano is an Atomic Energy Commissioner, Cabinet Office
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

佐野 利男 / 内閣府原子力委員

2023年 5月 2日



1 ウクライナの原子力施設に何が起きているか?



2 国際社会はどのように対応したか




3 今、何ができるか?




現在、ロシアの拒否権行使により安全保障理事会が機能不全に陥っている中で、国連総会が実効性のある措置をとるべきだ。具体的には、総会によるpeace keepersの派遣を検討すべきだ。国連が、R.グロッシー事務局長の提案である「核安全・セキュリティー保護地帯」を実現し、それを防護するためだ。

安保理が拒否権により機能不全に陥っている中、総会がPKOを組織した例は、スエズ動乱つまり第二次中東戦争の際、「平和のための結集決議」に基づいて国連緊急軍(UNEF)を派遣した例がある。今回もこの可能性を追求してほしい。総会によるPKOの派遣については、派遣3原則、就中当事者の受け入れ合意が前提になるが、そのためにはロシアの同意、可能であればザポリージャ地域における限定的な停戦合意が望ましく、これに向けて国連事務総長や有志国が積極的に介入し(good offices)、IAEAの「保護地帯」構想を実現することが求められる。ソ連時代、核実験場であったセミパラチンスク周辺で多数の被曝者を出し、放射線の被害に敏感なカザフスタンなどから協力を得られる可能性はあろう。現在グロッシー事務局長が「保護地帯」の実現に向けて孤軍奮闘しているが、この問題をIAEAに一任するにはあまりに荷が重過ぎないだろうか。


一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > To protect nuclear power plants in Ukraine