The head of the UN nuclear agency yesterday said his experts were “going nowhere” after crossing front lines into Russian-held territory in Ukraine to reach Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, where both sides are warning of a possible disaster.
n IAEA inspection team braved intense shelling to reach the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, arriving after a delay of several hours in a large convoy with a heavy presence of Russian soldiers nearby.
“We’re not going anywhere. The IAEA is there now, it’s in the facility and it’s not moving — it’s going to stay there,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, who personally led the mission, told reporters upon his return to Ukrainian-held territory.
Officials deployed by Russia have suggested that the UN nuclear surveillance team had only one day to inspect the facility while the mission had been preparing for longer.
Mr Grossi said a group of IAEA experts remained at the facility and will provide an impartial, neutral and technically sound assessment of the situation.
“I’m worried, I’m worried and I will continue to be worried about the facility until we have a more stable, predictable situation.”
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of raising the risk of a nuclear catastrophe by shelling the power plant, the situation of which has worsened in recent weeks.
Kyiv also accuses Russia, which seized the power plant earlier in the war, of using it to protect its armed forces and planning to steal its output by connecting it to Russia’s power grid.
Moscow denies this, but has so far rejected international calls for its troops to withdraw from the plant.
Video footage released by Russia’s state news agency RIA showed IAEA inspectors, including Mr Grossi, wearing hard hats, being shown around the site by Russian energy officials who pointed out damaged water pipes.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the facility has been controlled by Russian troops but operated by Ukrainian personnel
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of trying to sabotage the IAEA mission at the facility, which sits on the south bank of a huge reservoir on the Dnipro River that separates Russian and Ukrainian forces in central southern Ukraine. Since the beginning of the conflict, the facility has been controlled by Russian troops but operated by Ukrainian personnel.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow is doing everything it can to ensure that the plant works safely and that the IAEA inspectors can carry out their duties.
Earlier, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Energoatom said Russian shelling forced the shutdown of one of the two reactors still in operation.
When inspectors arrived at the front, Russian and Russian-deployed local officials accused Kyiv of sending troops onto boats at dawn yesterday to try to capture the facility and shelling the nearby Russian-held town of Enerhodar .
Kyiv accused the Russians of staging these incidents in order to blame Ukraine and block the visit.
A Reuters reporter in Enerhodar said a residential building there was hit by shells, forcing people to take cover in a basement. It was not possible to determine who fired. Reuters reporters in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhia saw explosions flash in the sky early in the morning.
“This morning the situation was quite difficult, but as I said, after coming this far, I didn’t want to stop and we moved in with my brave team,” said Mr. Grossi.
“There were moments where fire was obvious, heavy machine guns, artillery mortars,” he said, describing the shot as “really very worrying I would say for all of us.”
The head of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company said the IAEA’s visit would be successful if it resulted in the “demilitarization” of the plant.
Energoatom boss Petro Kotin told Reuters at a Ukrainian-controlled checkpoint on the road to the plant that Ukrainian authorities are “making every effort” to restart the plant’s fifth reactor after it was shut down early Thursday due to shelling .
The nuclear power plant provided more than a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before the war and is a vital asset for Ukraine as it prepares for a brutal winter of power shortages.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/were-not-going-anywhere-un-nuclear-chief-braves-intense-shelling-to-reach-zaporizhzhia-power-plant-41955020.html ‘We’re going nowhere’ – UN nuclear chief braves intense shelling to reach Zaporizhia power plant