A team of UN nuclear inspectors is heading on August 31 to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in war-torn southern Ukraine amid international concern over a potential accident.
The team is expected to arrive at the plant on September 1 and could stay anywhere from one day to eight days, according to the Russian-installed officials in Enerhodar, the town where the plant is based.
Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said he hoped to establish a permanent mission in Ukraine to monitor Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
“These operations are very complex operations. We are going to a war zone. We are going to occupied territory. And this requires explicit guarantees not only from the Russians, but also from the Republic of Ukraine,” Grossi said in the Ukrainian capital before the mission’s departure.
“We have been able to secure that…. So now we are moving,” Grossi told reporters in Kyiv. “I am really very conscious of the relevance of this moment, but we are ready. The IAEA is ready. We will be reporting back after the mission. We are going to be spending a few days there.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the inspection “probably one of the top-priority questions regarding safety of Ukraine and the world today.”
Zelenskiy repeated Kyiv’s and the international community’s call for the “immediate demilitarization of the plant,” which was occupied by Russian forces early in the 6-month-old war.
Zelenskiy also said the Soviet-era nuclear plant should be returned to “full Ukrainian control.”
Meeting Grossi on August 30, Zelenskiy said he was “very thankful” for the visit and warned that the situation around the plant was “extremely menacing.”
“The risk of a nuclear catastrophe due to Russian actions is not diminishing for even an hour,” Zelenskiy said.