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IAEA experts continue to be denied access to reactor halls at Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

by Dmytro Basmat and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 13, 2024 1:16 AM 2 min read
A Russian soldier stands guard outside the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant's second reactor on May 1, 2022. The picture was taken during a media tour organized by the Russian army. (Andrey Borodulin / AFP via Getty Images)
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Experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continue to be denied access to the reactor halls of units 1, 2, and 6 of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, hindering their ability to monitor nuclear safety, the IAEA said on Jan. 12.

“These restrictions on the experts’ timely access to the ZNPP are impeding the IAEA’s ability to assess the safety and security situation, including confirming the reported status of the reactor units, spent fuel ponds and associated safety equipment, independently and effectively,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

The team of experts have been denied access to the three reactor halls - where the reactor core and spent fuel are located - since Dec. 19, and not been able to visit the north-western part of any of the six turbine halls since mid-October. Occupying authorities informed the IAEA that entry may be granted in approximately one week.

When attempting to seek access on Jan. 12, the experts were told that the reactor halls were "sealed," the first time occupying authorities made such a reference to the status of containment.

Five of the plant's six reactors remain in cold shutdown, while unit 4 is in hot shutdown "to produce steam and heat, including for the nearby town of Enerhodar, where most plant staff live," according to the IAEA.

Ukraine's state nuclear energy company Energoatom has previously stated that keeping the fourth reactor in a hot state violates the way the reactor should be operated.

Having previously warned that active fighting near the occupied plant poses serious threats to the reactors, Director General Grossi reiterated his request for teams of experts to have unhindered access to the reactor halls "in order to prevent a nuclear accident and ensure the integrity of the plant.”

Russian forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant, located on the east bank of the Dnipro River in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, since March 2022.

IAEA teams have been based at the facility on rotation since September 2022.

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