The team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) left Kyiv on Wednesday en route to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine to inspect the damage after heavy shelling nearby Europe’s largest nuclear plant raised concerns about the facility’s safety.
Zaporizhzhya has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February. In the early days of the invasion, Russia shelled the Zaporizhzhya plant, creating concerns about a nuclear disaster ten times bigger than Chernobyl.
Ukrainian staff is still operating the Zaporizhzhya power plant, but there are Russian occupying forces on the ground.
After weeks of talks and negotiations, the IAEA mission, led by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, headed to Ukraine earlier this week as part of efforts to “protect the safety and security of Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility.”
“The IAEA mission will help ensure nuclear safety and security at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and undertake vital safeguards activities,” the agency said on Monday.
On Wednesday, the team left their hotel in Kyiv and departed in a convoy of vehicles toward Zaporizhzhya. It’s unclear when the inspectors will arrive at the nuclear power plant, but they plan to spend “a few days” there, Grossi told Reuters early on Wednesday.
“We are going to a war zone, we are going to occupied territory and this requires explicit guarantees, not only from the Russian federation but also from Ukraine. We have been able to secure that,” the IAEA director general said.
The agency hopes it will be able to set up a permanent mission at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant, and that the team of inspectors would be able to talk to the Ukrainian technicians working at Zaporizhzhya, Grossi told Reuters.
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russia-installed provisional administration in the area, told Russian news agency Interfax on Tuesday that the IAEA inspectors “should inspect the work at the plant in one day.”
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.