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Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: UN experts make first inspection

todaySeptember 1, 2022 5

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By George Wright

BBC News

A car transporting members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert mission drives past a checkpointImage source, Reuters

Image caption,

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is under Russian occupation

UN nuclear experts have made their first inspection of the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine, following a risky journey delayed by shelling near the site.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said he had seen what he “needed to see”.

Rafael Grossi said the “plant and physical integrity of the plant” had been “violated several times”.

The inspectors were accompanied to the plant by Russian soldiers.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of trying to sabotage the mission.

Zaporizhzhia, in southern Ukraine, is Europe’s largest nuclear plant. It was occupied by Russia soon after it invaded Ukraine in February.

Ukrainian staff who continue to operate the plant say Russian troops have used it as a military base and that workers are in effect held at gunpoint.

“The key things I needed to see I saw, and your explanations were very clear,” Mr Grossi told Russian media accompanying the inspectors. He later returned to Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Staff from the UN agency will be staying at the plant, he said, but he did not specify how many people would be staying and for how long.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that around eight to 12 inspectors would stay on, while Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom said five inspectors would stay.

The inspectors hope to assess the state of the plant and talk to Ukrainian workers under Russian control.

The IAEA’s former chief inspector Olli Heinonen told the BBC if interviews do take place workers are unlikely to be as “open as they would like to be” over the risks to the safety of themselves and their families.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff meanwhile accused Russia of trying to “wreck” the mission by shelling the nearby town of Enerhodar, which is under Moscow’s control, and the facility.

“Criminals must be stopped,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram, accusing Russia of acting like a “terrorist state”.

Russia refuted this, stating that 60 Ukrainian “saboteurs” who attempted to recapture the plant by crossing the river on Thursday morning were killed.

While recent fighting in the area has caused some damage to the plant, so far there has not been any recorded increase in radiation levels in the area.

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