Aug 31, 2022 - World

IAEA establishing "continued presence" at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaking to reporters outside Zaporizhzhia city on Sept. 1.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaking to reporters outside Zaporizhzhia city on Sept. 1. Photo: Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Thursday he and a team of experts completed an initial tour of parts of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine.

Why it matters: Grossi said the IAEA will now establish a "continued presence" at the plant to help avoid a potential nuclear catastrophe set off by military activity near the facility stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

  • He said earlier Thursday "it is obvious that the plant, and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times, be chance, by deliberation."

The plant, Europe's largest nuclear station, has been occupied by the Russian military since March, but is still operated by its Ukrainian staff.

  • Ukraine's nuclear agency warned last week there's a risk of hydrogen and radioactive leaks from the plant as a result of nearby artillery shelling damaging the facility's infrastructure.

What they're saying: "We are finishing our long-awaited visit to Zaporizhzhia power plant," Grossi said Thursday in front of one of the plant's reactor buildings.

  • "I have just completed a first tour of the key areas that we wanted to see in this first approach to the whole facility," he added. "Of course, there's a lot more to do."
  • "My team is staying on and, most importantly, we are establishing a continued presence from the IAEA here."
  • After arriving in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday with a team of 13 other experts, the director general said the IAEA sought to establish a "permanent presence" at the nuclear plant.

The other side: Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's representative to the international organizations in Vienna, said in a social media post on Wednesday that "Russia welcomes this intention," referring to Grossi's proposal of a permanent IAEA presence at the facility.

The big picture: Recently, both Ukraine and Russia have reported regular shelling in the vicinity of the plant.

  • Both countries have blamed each other for the shelling and accused each other of planning to conduct "false flag" attacks on the plant. Each denied the others' allegations.
  • While seizing the facility in March, Russian tanks fired their guns while near the plant's reactors, setting fire to a training building outside of the main facility's complex.
  • The nuclear power station temporarily lost connection to the Ukrainian power grid twice last week for the first time in the history of the plant, triggering the emergency protection systems of the plant's two operating reactor units, the IAEA said.
  • Numerous countries and international organizations have condemned the recent military activity near Zaporizhzhia and have called on Russia to remove its military personnel and weaponry from the plant.

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