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UN nuclear watchdog chief pushing to send delegation to ‘volatile’ Ukrainian nuclear plant

Six power units generate 40-42 billion kWh of electricity, making the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. (Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The situation is “volatile” at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the head of the UN’s international nuclear agency said on August 2, as it continues attempts to send a mission to the plant.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York that every principle of safety has been violated at the plant since Russian forces took control of it in March.

“The situation is really a volatile one,” Grossi said, adding that the agency cannot allow this to continue.

Located on the Dnieper River in southeastern Ukraine, the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant has been under Russian control since the early weeks of Moscow’s invasion, though it is still being operated by Ukrainian staff.

The IAEA has been trying for weeks to send a team to inspect the plant. Ukraine has so far rejected the efforts, which it says would legitimize Russia’s occupation of the site in the eyes of the international community.

“Going there is a very complex thing because it requires the understanding and cooperation of a number of actors,” particularly Moscow and Kyiv, as well as the backing of the United Nations, since the plant is in a war zone, Grossi said. “I’m trying to put a mission back together to go there as soon as I can.”

Grossi is in New York to attend a conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking on August 1 at the conference, accused Moscow of using the power plant as a military base to fire at Ukrainians, knowing that they can’t fire back out without risking accidentally hitting a nuclear reactor or highly radioactive waste in storage.

The Zaporizhzhya region where the plant is located is largely under Russian control, and Moscow-backed separatists have said they are planning to stage a referendum on joining Russia later this year.