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EDITORIAL: “The humanity is playing with a loaded gun,” the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres pointed out Saturday as he addressed a media event marking the 77th anniversary of nuclear bomb attack on Hiroshima. That loaded gun is the Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (6,000 megawatts capacity) that is presently in the Russian occupation. There exist legitimate concerns about the shelling occurring around the facility, with the potential to damage critical infrastructure, including the reactors.

So far the damage caused to this Europe’s largest power plant is not much, but who knows the next round of shelling may hit its vital components to release radiation. Due to its geographical location, a radiation release could hit any part of the European continent.

Moscow has asked the Ukraine’s allies to help stop the continuation of shelling (both sides have accused each other of attacking the plant). And to this Kyiv has called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone around the power plant. There is a deadlock between the two sides, fuelling fears of a catastrophic disaster that have forced both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations to raise the alarm.

Both Moscow and Kyiv should give up on their hard stands and hand over the control of the Zaporizhzhia power plant to the IAEA, says Guterres, adding that “We fully support the IAEA and all its efforts to create stabilization of the plant’’.

The occupation of Ukraine’s power plant by Russian forces is the first of its kind, and therefore no clear position is taken by the UN or the IAEA. It is important to note that nuclear plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks, although no such attack has ever taken place.

But here is the case of a large nuclear power plant taken over by the enemy country. Even when it is for peaceful purposes and not a bomb-manufacturing facility it is still a source of radiation which can do harm to people almost as much as a nuclear weapon can.

The consequences of atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki constitute a strong case in point. It is, therefore, about time the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency came up with a UN Security-Council-mandated position to help avert the impending disaster. In the meantime, Russia is expected to be mulling handing back control of Zaporizhazhia nuclear power plant to Ukraine. Russia needs to respond positively to the UN Secretary General’s demand that international inspectors should be given access to plant’s site.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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