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IAEA chief visits Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to assess safety

by Tania Myronyshena February 7, 2024 9:27 PM 2 min read
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on Sept. 11, 2023. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)
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Director General of the UN’s nuclear watchdog Rafael Grossi visited the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s south on Feb. 7 to check the status of the plant’s cooling systems and assess whether it can operate with a reduced staff.

The nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, has been under Russian occupation since March 2022. While its six reactors are currently in shutdown mode, the plant’s proximity to the front puts it at high risk of being hit by shelling.

“On my 4th visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, assessed observance of IAEA’s 5 principles for protecting the plant & status of current power and cooling systems, levels of qualified staff, among others,” Grossi wrote on X.

“These are vital assessments for the facility's safety and security — no place for complacency.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) earlier reported that Russian occupying forces at the plant had announced that no workers employed by Ukraine’s national operator Energoatom would be allowed to work at the nuclear plant any longer.

“We have expressed for quite a long time a general concern about the levels of the workforce at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. One of the most important things for me is to assess the operational impact of this decision," Grossi told reporters in Kyiv on Feb. 6 ahead of his visit to the plant.

“Comparing it to the normal staff quantity, which should be over 10,000 at the station, we are currently witnessing a significant reduction by half, he said, Suspilne reported.

Grossi arrived in Kyiv on Feb. 6, where he met with officials, including Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko and Petro Kotin, the head of state-owned company Energoatom.

IAEA teams have been based at the facility on rotation since September 2022. Russian authorities still deny IAEA inspectors full access to the plant.

The director general will head next to Russia “to “have a high-level discussion about the future prospectives for the plant,” the IAEA said.

Minister: Ukraine to start building 4 nuclear reactors in 2024
Before its occupation in March 2022, the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest nuclear plant in Europe, used to produce more than 40% of nuclear-generated electricity in Ukraine. Today, three nuclear power plants in Ukrainian-controlled territory produce about 55% of the country’s electricity needs.
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