An IAEA mission heads to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant
The director of the agency and thirteen other experts will inspect the plant “this week” to determine the risk of a radioactive catastrophe
“The day has come, the IAEA mission is on its way to Zaporizhia. We must protect the security of Ukraine and Europe’s largest power station.” With these words, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, announced yesterday that a delegation led by him and made up of thirteen other experts has managed to set sail for Ukraine. The group will be able “this week” to determine the risk of a nuclear catastrophe after insisting for months on the need to thoroughly inspect the facilities, controlled since March by Russian troops and the object of attacks of which kyiv and Moscow are accused .
The last few weeks of bombing, as well as the total shutdown of Zaporizhia on Thursday after the damage caused by a fire to its electrical network, have triggered concerns about the safety of the plant. Fears increased on Saturday when the Ukrainian state operator Energoatom warned that “the station’s infrastructure has been damaged, there is a risk of hydrogen leaks and spraying of radioactive substances.”
The situation in Zaporizhia has not improved in recent hours. While the IAEA informed the international community of its mission, Russia denounced new Ukrainian attacks, specifically two artillery shells that would have hit near reactor number 6 and a pumping station for cooling the plant, respectively. The kyiv authorities did not respond to the accusations and limited themselves to reporting a new offensive by Kremlin troops in the vicinity of the plant, where six of the country’s 15 reactors are located.
In this war scenario, the experts of the UN nuclear agency will have to carry out a complex task of control. “This mission will be the toughest in the history of the IAEA due to the combat activities that Russia is carrying out on the ground,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba said yesterday. The experts, as revealed by the ‘New York Times’, come from mostly neutral countries, without representation from the United Kingdom and the United States, in order to obtain permission from Moscow.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, yesterday described the observers’ visit as “necessary” and called for “pressure” on the Ukrainian forces to reduce tension around the plant and “stop endangering the European continent by bombing” the facility and its surroundings.
Russia’s speech in favor of the arrival of the IAEA contrasted, however, with the version offered by Energoatom. Not in vain, he pointed out that Russian forces “are preparing for the arrival of the IAEA mission, putting pressure on plant personnel to prevent them from collecting evidence of the occupant’s crimes at the plant.” He also detailed that “10 inhabitants were injured” in the bombings in the last 24 hours in Energodar, the town where Zaporizhia is located. Among them, four plant workers.
The Ukrainian operator similarly indicated yesterday on Telegram that the plant “works with the risk of violating safety rules regarding radiation and fire.” Even so, both Energoatom and the Russian Defense Ministry assured that for now the radiation levels in the area are “normal”.