Deal on Ukrainian nuclear safety to come ‘soon,’ says IAEA chief

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is closing in on a deal to guarantee the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, according to its chief Rafael Mariano Grossi.

“We are negotiating, we are approaching what we want to be the final stages of our consultations,” Grossi told European lawmakers on Monday, adding he hoped to reach a deal “very soon.”

The discussions, which started on March 10, are “very delicate” diplomatically, he said.

The future framework will make “no political references to the situation in the plants or no connection that could be construed as legitimizing the presence of anybody in a foreign territory,” according to Grossi, responding to concerns that it could be used by Moscow to legitimize control over parts of Ukraine’s territory.

He added that it will require Russia and Ukraine to “observe some of the rules … that have been repeatedly violated with enormous risk for the population, local, regional, European populations” since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Russian troops have taken control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the active nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia, prompting fears of potential nuclear disaster and large-scale environmental damage.

Grossi has repeatedly expressed his concerns about nuclear safety as the conflict unfolds, but at no point has the IAEA warned of explicit and immediate danger outside Ukraine.

Speaking to MEPs on Monday, he stressed that “nuclear power plants are very robust, they can sustain an airplane that falls on them.” It would take “massive means” to get to the core of a reactor. He also repeated that targeting nuclear plants would constitute a breach of international law.

Once the framework is agreed, Grossi said he hopes to send IAEA experts to Ukraine “to facilitate the situation there, also as a deterrent to new, complicated, dangerous occurrences taking places.”

Experts will also look to gather “credible, objective information” about the situation on the ground, he said, noting that it is becoming “increasingly difficult” to ascertain the facts of the situation “because there are conflicting narratives about what is happening.”

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