UN nuclear watchdog convenes meeting to discuss Ukraine

The UN nuclear watchdog called a meeting of its governing body on Sunday to discuss the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, days after Moscow’s forces took control of the Chernobyl site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that the meeting of the board of governors will take place on Wednesday at its headquarters in Vienna.

Ukraine has four active nuclear power plants, as well as nuclear waste depots such as the one at Chernobyl, and there are fears of possible consequences if damaged in the fighting.

Chernobyl was the site of the worst nuclear accident in history in 1986, and on Thursday the site fell to Russian troops.

Ukrainian authorities said radiation levels there had increased after the Russian takeover, but the IAEA said levels remained low and “posed no threat to the public at all”.

Also on Sunday, the IAEA said it had been informed by Ukraine that “missiles hit the site of a radioactive waste repository in Kiev overnight, but there were no reports of damage to the building or indications of a radioactive release”.

That incident came a day after Ukrainian officials said an electrical transformer at a similar repository near the northeastern city of Kharkiv had been damaged, but again there were no reports of a radioactive spill.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said such incidents “highlight the very real risk that facilities containing radioactive material will be damaged during the conflict, with potentially serious consequences for human health and the environment.”

“Once again, I make an urgent and strong appeal to all parties to refrain from any military or other action that could threaten the safety and security of these facilities,” he added.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday he was putting Russia’s nuclear forces on edge as Western countries took “unfriendly” steps against his country in the wake of the invasion.

The IAEA meeting on Wednesday will take place days before a scheduled meeting of the board of governors and coincides with a crucial phase of efforts to fully restore the 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia have taken part in talks to revive the Vienna accord, whose success or failure is widely expected to depend on negotiations in the coming days.

The United States participated indirectly in the talks.

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