IAEA inspectors visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine amid shelling, shutdown

Friday, September 2, 2022

The IAEA team led by Rafael Grossi (center) at Vienna International Airport on August 29, 2022
Image: IAEA.

A team of fourteen nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southeast Ukraine yesterday amid shelling and an emergency shutdown of one of the reactors.

The power plant, Europe's largest nuclear facility, has been under Russian occupation since March and is an active combat zone. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said his team were conscious of "increased military activity in the area", but would proceed undeterred. The team's arrival was reportedly delayed by several hours due to shelling in and around the nearby city of Enerhodar.

Energoatom, Ukraine's state nuclear power company, said shelling caused the plant's fifth reactor to shut down, leaving one operating. Both Ukraine and Russia have accused the other of sabotaging operations: Kyiv have accused Moscow of shelling the route taken by IAEA inspectors.

Meanwhile, Russia's Ministry of Defence accused Ukraine of a failed amphibious assault to wrestle control of the facility early yesterday.

According to Grossi, the team's mission is to "start immediately an assessment of the security and the safety situation", to eventually establish a permanent presence at Zaporizhzhia "to stabilize the situation, and to get regular, reliable, impartial, neutral updates of what the situation is there." In Vienna on Wednesday, Russia's IAEA representative said Moscow would welcome such a presence.

Several inspectors, including Grossi, have since left after seeing "key things", according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti; Energoatom reports five team members are to remain until tomorrow. According to president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian and international journalists were not permitted to accompany the inspectors.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian forces were reportedly attacking supply lines around Russian-occupied cities, namely Kherson in the country's south.