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SOURCE: PTI

India has voiced appreciation for the recent visit by a team from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine and said it is carefully following developments regarding the safety and security of the war-hit country’s nuclear power reactors and facilities.

Following months of negotiations, a 14-member team from the nuclear watchdog arrived at the nuclear plant last week. From the team, two will remain at the site, which has been under Russian control since the early days of the conflict.

“India attaches high importance to ensuring the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, as any accident involving nuclear facilities could potentially have severe consequences for public health and the environment,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the UNSC briefing on Ukraine on the IAEA team’s visit to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), Ms Kamboj said, “We appreciate the recent visit by the IAEA team and continue to carefully follow developments regarding the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear power reactors and facilities.”

India has noted that the IAEA will have a continued presence at the ZNPP.

IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi, who led the mission, had described it as “historic”. The fact that staff is now there is “unprecedented”, he added.

Citing nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima, as well as the conflict in Iraq, he recalled that while agency inspectors had experienced “difficult circumstances,” it had always been in the aftermath.

“We in this case have the historical, ethical imperative to prevent something from happening. And by having established this presence, and by agreeing to a special safety and security protection zone, we have the opportunity to prevent this from happening,” he said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he remains gravely concerned about the situation in and around the Zaporizhzhia plant, including reports of recent shelling.

“Any damage, whether intentional or not, to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia or to any other nuclear facility in Ukraine  could spell catastrophe, not only for the immediate vicinity but for the region and beyond,” he said.

Guterres said all steps must be taken to avoid such a scenario.

“Common sense and cooperation must guide the way forward. Any action that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant is unacceptable. All efforts to re-establish the plant as purely civilian infrastructure are vital,” he said.

Ms Kamboj underlined that India accords high priority to the discharge by the IAEA of its safeguards and monitoring activities, in accordance with its Statute in an effective, non-discriminatory, and efficient manner, and we value the efforts of the Agency in this regard. “With a view to not endangering the safety and security of nuclear facilities and personnel working there, we reiterate our call for strict mutual restraint,” she said.

She reiterated India’s continued concern over the situation in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of the conflict, India has consistently called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an end to violence, she said, adding that “we have called upon both sides to return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue. We support all diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

India has welcomed the Secretary-General-backed initiative to open the exports of grains from Ukraine via the Black Sea and the facilitation of the exports of Russian food and fertilizers. “These efforts demonstrate that differences can be resolved through sustained dialogue and diplomacy, which has been the consistent position of India.”