“Any attack on nuclear power plants is… suicidal,” the UN chief said, adding that he hoped the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be able to access the center for inspection.
Moscow and Kyiv both denied responsibility for the Zaporizhzhia plant strike over the weekend.
While Europe’s largest nuclear site has been under Russian control since the early days of the war, Ukrainian technicians are still operating it.
Nuclear disaster: “Real risk”
Energoatom, the operator of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant, said Russian shelling damaged three radiation monitors around the spent nuclear fuel storage facility, in which a worker was injured.
The bombardment prompted IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to warn that the way Zaporizhzhia was run, coupled with the fighting surrounding it, posed “the very real risk of a nuclear catastrophe”.
Since then, a preliminary assessment by UN atomic watchdog experts has revealed that the safety and security situation appears to be stable with no immediate threat, despite the fact that several pillars have been broken.
“We support the IAEA in its efforts in relation to creating the conditions for stabilizing this plant,” said the UN chief, adding his hope that the IAEA could gain access to the plant.
Peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia
When asked why a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine had not yet been reached, the UN chief said they were working closely with Turkey, which had “launched a new initiative regarding a possible start of peace negotiations”.
But he explained that Ukraine cannot accept that “its territory is taken by another country”, and that Russia “does not seem ready to accept” that the areas it had taken “not be annexed by the Russian Federation nor give way to new independent states”. ”.
Guterres’ comments followed a visit to Hiroshima over the weekend, where the Secretary-General marked the 77th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear attack on August 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people.
Amid Russian threats of a nuclear attack since they invaded Ukraine in February, fears of a third atomic bombing have grown.
At Monday’s press conference, the UN chief reiterated his warning about the use of nuclear weapons, saying that if they were used the UN would likely be unable to respond because “we could all not be here anymore”.
Against the backdrop of the world currently boasting 13,000 nuclear bombs while continuing to make huge investments in modernizing atomic arsenals, Mr. Guterres warned that after decades of nuclear disarmament efforts, we are “going backwards”.
“Stop it,” he said, stressing that the billions of dollars invested in the arms race must be used to “fight climate change, fight poverty, [and] respond to the needs of the international community”.
The Secretary-General will then travel to Mongolia and South Korea to discuss ways to deal with North Korea’s nuclear development.
Withholding “common sense”
Asked about China’s massive military exercises around Taiwan, Guterres said the UN “is complying with a General Assembly resolution, the so-called one China policy”.
The dispute was sparked by a visit last week to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We all want this resolution to correspond to a peaceful environment,” he said, urging common sense and restraint to allow for “extremely important” de-escalation.