The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, has travelled to Ukraine to assess the situation surrounding the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.
“What we are focussing on at the moment is the situation surrounding the cooling function of the power plant,” Grossi told journalists in Kiev on Tuesday ahead of a planned visit to the plant.
Following the destruction of the Kakhovka dam downstream, the cooling water supply is very “fragile,” Grossi said. While on his scheduled Wednesday visit to the plant the IAEA boss wants to review the containment measures taken by the power plant management.
Grossi said he would also assess the situation of Ukrainian employees who have been excluded from work due to denied contracts with the Russian nuclear company.
“One of the most important things for me is to assess the operational impact of this decision,” said Grossi.
The nuclear power plant has been shut down and is not currently operating. According to the IAEA, only around 4,500 of the more than 11,000 employees at the power plant have taken Russian citizenship and signed employment contracts with the Russian nuclear company Rosatom.
Grossi went on to say that the IAEA observers present on site have only limited access, but that he sees a gradual improvement. In Kiev, he spoke with Ukraine’s Energy Minister German Galushchenko and President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On his return from Ukraine, Grossi said he also intends to travel to Moscow for “a high-level discussion about the future prospectives for the plant.”
Russia announced the capture of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in early March 2022, shortly after launching a full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. The plant is located in the contested area near the front line.
The plant’s reactors have been shut down since September 2022. The plant, which is currently not generating any electricity, needs external power to ensure that the reactors are cooled on a permanent basis.
The plant has already suffered several temporary power outages in the course of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Warnings of a possible loss of control and a nuclear catastrophe have been circulating for a long time.