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Ukraine: IAEA chief visits Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

March 29, 2023

The head of the UN atomic watchdog traveled to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Currently under Russian control, the safety of Europe's largest nuclear power facility has concerned many since the war started.

International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi visits the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant ZNPP, as Russia s military operation in Ukraine continues, outside the city of Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region territory, that has accessed Russia.
Grossi arrived at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant near the front lines on WednesdayImage: RIA Novosti/SNA/IMAGO

Rafael Grossi, head of the  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that he was visiting Europe's largest power station. He is set to review the situation there in a bid to reduce the risk of a major nuclear accident.

This is Grossi's  second visit to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station since Moscow's forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The head of IAEA and his delegation arrived on Wednesday morning and were expected to leave by noon. This is according to the Russian state-owned news agency TASS, which cited an official with Russia's nuclear operator Rosenergoatom.

A motorcade transporting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert mission, escorted by the Russian military, arrives at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict outside Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, March 29, 2023.
The IAEA boss' convoy arrived at the plant, which has been cut off from the electricity grid and forced to run on generator power several times in recent monthsImage: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS

Why is the head of IAEA visiting?

Grossi's second visit to Zaporizhzhia is mainly to "assess first-hand the serious nuclear safety and security situation at the facility," according to the IAEA.

The IAEA has had a team of experts in the nuclear power plant since September 2022, but Grossi noted that the situation was "still precarious."

Moscow and Kyiv have   regularly accused each other of bombarding the power station in the last year.

Grossi has been pushing for a safety agreement between Ukraine and Russia to protect the facility.

A meeting with Zelenskyy

Grossi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy prior to his visit. Zelenskyy said it was not possible to restore safety at the nuclear plant while it remains under Russian control.

This handout photo taken on March 29, 2023 obtained from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) shows Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)en route to visit Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is currently held by Russian forces.
There are persistent fears about the safety of the nuclear plant, Europe's largest, which is located in the southern Zaporizhzhia region where there has been frequent shelling since Russian troops invadedImage: Fredrik Dahl/AFP

"Without the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and personnel from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and adjacent territory, any initiatives to restore nuclear safety and security are doomed to failure," Zelenskyy told Grossi.

To guarantee essential nuclear safety and security functions, the plant needs a reliable electricity supply. However, the plant has suffered recurrent electricity outages during the war causing alarm in the IAEA and the international community.

In an interview in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, Grossi said that his attempt to broker a deal to protect the nuclear plant was still alive. He noted that he was adjusting the proposals to seek a breakthrough.

dmn/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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