Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met on Monday 27 March with president Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to discuss what he described, prior to his first visit to the plant in almost seven months, as ‘increasingly dire fears about a battle-scarred nuclear plant on the front line of the war’. His visit was to assess first-hand the serious nuclear safety and security situation at the facility and underline the urgent need to protect it during the continuing military conflict in the country.
The two met in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, about 35 miles northeast of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which invading Russian forces have held for more than a year, and which has been recently claimed by Russian president Putin as an established Russian possession.
The plant, on the Dnipro River, is the first in the world to be engulfed by a war zone, raising fears of a catastrophic release of radiation. Shelling and shooting have repeatedly damaged the plant and temporarily knocked out vital supporting equipment. And reports that Ukraine is planning a major counter-offensive to retake southern territory that includes the plant have heightened fears of a disastrous strike, whether accidental or intentional.
Mr Grossi has issued a series of warnings about security at the Zaporizhzhia plant, denouncing international complacency and saying that one day luck will run out. “The nuclear safety and security dangers are all too obvious, as is the necessity to act now to prevent an accident with potential radiological consequences to the health and the environment for people in Ukraine and beyond,” he declared in a public statement at the weekend.
Mr Grossi said that his journey to Ukraine was also aimed at ensuring that the regular rotation of IAEA experts to and from the site is maintained and improved, following the very challenging circumstances faced by the experts during the previous rotation in February which had been delayed by almost a month. He was accompanied by a new group of IAEA experts, the seventh such team present at the site since the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) was established.
Image courtesy of IAEA