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IAEA chief to visit Zaporizhzhia plant and Kyiv, Moscow to discuss nuclear safety

by Abbey Fenbert January 26, 2024 5:45 AM 2 min read
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi speaks at a press conference during the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on March 6, 2023 in Vienna, Austria. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)
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Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, will visit the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) as well as Kyiv and Moscow in the coming days, Grossi told reporters after a briefing for the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 25.

The IAEA has rotated staff members at the Zaporizhzhia plant to monitor safety concerns since September 2022, following the nuclear facility's occupation by Russian troops in March.

Grossi addressed the Security Council in a closed session ahead of the emergency meeting on the crash of a Russian Il-76 military plane.

He said he would lead the upcoming 16th rotation of IAEA experts at the ZNPP.

"Most importantly, what I will be doing is I will be talking to the management there, the Russian management of the plant. I will be seeing how the issue of the water is being dealt with," Gross said.

Supplying water to cool the plant's reactors has become a critical concern since Russian forces destroyed the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant on June 6, 2023. The ZNPP relied on water from the nearby Kakhovka Reservoir, which was depleted by the attack. ZNPP personnel are now drilling for water in ground wells around the perimeter of the plant.

"I also need to ascertain the longer-term plans for the plant. Are they going to attempt to restart one or more reactors, and why, and how? These are issues that have profound nuclear safety implications," Grossi said.

After his inspection of the Zaporizhzhia plant, Grossi said he would go to Russia, to engage in a political and technical dialogue with officials there.

Grossi said that the ZNPP's position in Russian-occupied territory on the war's front lines means that the nuclear safety risk is ongoing.

"In this situation, you cannot say that there is a trend, that things are stabilizing somehow, things are improving. I mean, you can have a good week, and then you have a blackout. You can have a good week, and then a drone aims at the plant."

Grossi has previously warned that active fighting near the occupied plant poses serious threats to nuclear safety, and has reported that Russian authorities still deny IAEA experts full access to the plant's units.

The IAEA reported on Jan. 20 that Russia has again laid mines around the perimeter of the plant, raising fresh security concerns.

When asked to rate the danger level at the nuclear plant on a 10-point scale, Grossi said that the risks are in constant flux.

"There are days where you are near 10, and days where nothing seems to happen. And the problem is this — the complete uncertainty, because this is a war."

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