A mission from the United Nations nuclear agency has been delayed as it makes its way to visit Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant amid reports of shelling that forced one of the plant's reactors to shut down. A convoy carrying the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was waiting at a Ukrainian checkpoint about 20 kilometers from the front line, Ukraine's state energy operator Enerhoatom said on September 1.
Rafael Grossi, the IAEA chief, said the mission -- which is expected to be delayed for several hours -- will still reach the nuclear plant on September 1 as planned, a spokesperson for the agency said. Earlier on the day, the agency announced that the mission had set off from the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhya toward the plant in the Russian-controlled town of Enerhodar.
Grossi said the mission was aware of "increased military activity in the area" but was pressing ahead with its plan to visit the facility and meet its staff.
The situation at the Zaporizhzhya plant -- Europe's largest nuclear power station -- continues to be a source of major concern for the international community. Russian and Ukrainian forces have accused each other of shelling the plant, raising concerns about a possible nuclear disaster.
Both sides again accused each other of launching attacks in the area ahead of the inspectors’ visit on September 1. Ukrainian officials said Russian shelling forced one of two reactors operating at the power plant to shut down.
"Since 5 a.m., constant mortar attacks on the city have not stopped... It is known that several civilian buildings were hit. There are victims! How many is still being determined," he said.
Oleksandr Starukh, head of the Zaporizhzhya region, separately reported that Russian troops were shelling "the pre-agreed route of the IAEA mission from [the city of] Zaporizhzhya to the nuclear power plant."
"The UN advance team cannot continue to move due to security reasons," he wrote on Telegram.
Russian shelling has forced one of the two operational reactors at the nuclear plant to shut down, according to Ukraine's state energy operator Enerhoatom.
"The emergency protection was activated and the operational fifth power unit was shut down" due to the Russian mortal shelling, Enerhoatom said on Telegram on September 1.
Enerhoatom added that "power unit No. 6 continues to work in the energy system of Ukraine" and is supplying electricity for the power plant's own needs.
In turn, Russia's Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of attempting to seize the power plant early on September 1.
The ministry said that "measures had been taken" to destroy the opposing troops, including use of military aviation.
It gave no evidence to back up the claim, which could not be independently verified.
Russian news agency TASS quoted Aleksandr Volga, a Russian-installed official in Enerhodar, as saying the town was without power on September 1.
Volga said there was no light in Enerhodar, but there was no reason the planned visit by IAEA inspectors to the nuclear plant could not go ahead.
The situation at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant -- Europe's largest nuclear power station -- continues to be a source of major concern for the international community. Russian and Ukrainian forces have accused each other of shelling the plant, raising concerns about a possible nuclear disaster.
The IAEA's experts were set to assess physical damage to the plant, determine the functionality of safety and security systems, evaluate staff conditions and perform urgent safeguards activities, the agency said.
The United States has said a "controlled shutdown" of Zaporizhzhya is the "safest option" and urged Moscow to agree to a demilitarized zone around the site, echoing an earlier call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
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