The White House requested $35 million be included in the short-term government funding bill to assist Ukraine's nuclear security as US officials continue to closely watch the precarious conditions around Europe's largest nuclear power plant, according to an administration official.
The additional funds would serve to bolster the significant assistance already provided by the US National Nuclear Security Administration to Ukrainian officials in the months since Russia invaded the country, the official said. It comes as US officials and their international counterparts have been on high alert over the potential for a nuclear accident at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
The new money, which congressional Democrats included in their draft funding measure released late Monday evening, would be directed to the overall US efforts to assist with Ukraine's nuclear preparedness, and would specifically be used to support procurement and maintenance of additional sensors, data assessment and analysis, and for to supply the Ukrainian National Guard with protective capabilities at nuclear power plants, the official said.
The funds could also be utilized in the event Ukrainians faced the need to consolidate radiological materials.
The facility, which has been held by Russian troops since March, has for weeks served as an increasingly hazardous flashpoint in the war. Shelling at and around the site has damaged infrastructure, cut power lines and drawn a sustained international effort to de-escalate the situation. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the shelling.
"We've been working with the International Atomic Energy Agency and with Ukrainian energy regulators to try to make sure that there is no threat posed by a meltdown or something else from the plant," Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We will continue to do that, but it's something we all have to keep a close eye on."
The White House funding request came as part of the overall US effort to assist with Ukraine's nuclear preparedness, which has grown increasingly important as a result of the events at Zaporizhzhia. It also comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a series of dramatic steps to escalate a conflict he launched and has now found his country mired in after more than seven months.
More on this: The $35 million only represents a small piece of the $12.3 billion in assistance to Ukraine included the stopgap funding bill, the bulk of which is directed toward military and economic assistance.
But it does mark the latest tranche of assistance on an issue of palpable concern since the opening days of the Russian invasion. Ukraine has four operating nuclear power plant sites with a total of 15 reactors.
Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to pass the bill and avoid a government shutdown.
The US agency that would receive the new funds has been involved for months in providing real-time assistance in monitoring radiation levels amid shelling and combat in and around Ukraine's power plants, including Zaporizhzhia and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The NNSA, which technically operates within the US Energy Department, has also worked to model the potential consequences of damage to nuclear facilities.