Monday August 29, 2022

IAEA mission heads to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

IAEA mission heads to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Director General of IAEA Rafael Grossi speaks during a news conference in Tokyo. File/AP

A team from the UN nuclear watchdog headed on Monday to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the agency's chief said, as Russia and Ukraine traded accusations of shelling in its vicinity, fuelling fears of a radiation disaster.

Captured by Russian troops in March but run by Ukrainian staff, Zaporizhzhia has been a hotspot in a conflict that has settled into a war of attrition fought mainly in Ukraine's east and south six months after Russia launched its invasion.

"We must protect the safety and security of Ukraine's and Europe's biggest nuclear facility," Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a post on Twitter.


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An IAEA team he was leading will reach the plant on the Dnipro river near front lines in southern Ukraine later this week, Grossi said, without specifying the day of their expected arrival.

The IAEA tweeted separately that the mission would assess physical damage, evaluate the conditions in which staff are working at the plant and "determine functionality of safety & security systems". It would also "perform urgent safeguards activities", a reference to keeping track of nuclear material.

IAEA mission heads to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear complex, Europe's largest, to ensure it is not a target.

The two sides have for days exchanged accusations of courting disaster with their attacks.

With fears mounting of a nuclear accident in a country still haunted by the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, Zaporizhzhia authorities are handing out iodine tablets and teaching residents how to use them in case of a radiation leak.

Russian forces fired at Enerhodar, the city where the plant is located, the chief of staff of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, said late on Sunday on his Telegram channel alongside a video of firefighters dousing burning cars.

"They provoke and try to blackmail the world," Andriy Yermak said.

IAEA mission heads to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
A view shows a logo of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia region. File/Reuters

Ukraine's military earlier reported shelling of nine more towns on the opposite side of the Dnipro river.

Russia's defence ministry reported more Ukrainian shelling at the plant over the weekend. Nine shells fired by the Ukrainian artillery landed in the plant's grounds, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

"At present, full-time technical personnel are monitoring the technical condition of the nuclear plant and ensuring its operation. The radiation situation in the area of the nuclear power plant remains normal," he said in a statement.

The Russian state news agency cited authorities as saying they had downed a Ukrainian drone which planned to attack the nuclear-waste storage facility at the plant.

Two of the plant's reactors were cut off from the electrical grid last week due to shelling.

Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said it had no new information about attacks on the plant and Reuters could not verify the accounts.

The US State Department said on Sunday that Russia did not want to acknowledge the grave radiological risk at the plant and had blocked a draft agreement on nuclear non-proliferation because it mentioned such risk.

Reuters

 

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