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IAEA chief brings team to Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said on Monday he was on his way to inspect Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which its operator said had been shelled again last day. The Zaporizhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear facility, has been occupied by Russian troops since the beginning of the war. Moscow and Kyiv are swapping blame for the shelling of the complex of six Soviet-designed nuclear reactors in the southern Ukraine city of Energodar. Last week, the plant was briefly disconnected from the national grid for the first time in its four-decade history due to Russian shelling of the last working power line, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. Over the weekend, the Ukrainian nuclear agency Energoatom, which operates the plant, warned of the danger of a radiation leak. Nevertheless, “on the last day, the Russian military continued to fire at Energodar and the site of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant,” the agency said on Monday morning. Ten people were injured, including four plant workers, and as of 10:00 (0700 GMT) “the plant is operating at risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards,” Energoatom said on Telegram. “Preparing for the arrival of the IAEA mission, the occupiers increased pressure on the facility’s personnel to prevent them from disclosing evidence of the occupier’s crimes at the facility and its use as a military base,” she added . – Long-awaited visit – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been requesting a visit to the site for months, warning of “the very real risk of a nuclear catastrophe”. On Monday, Grossi said “the day has come” and that an IAEA support and assistance mission was “on its way now”. The IAEA director-general said on Twitter that the UN nuclear surveillance team would arrive at the plant “later this week”. In a photo accompanying his tweet, Grossi posed with a team of 13 wearing caps and sleeveless jackets with the IAEA logo. The United Nations has called for an end to all military activity around the complex. Ukraine initially feared that an IAEA visit would legitimize Russia’s occupation of the site, before finally backing the idea of ​​a mission. The G7 industrial powers on Monday called for “unrestricted access” for the IAEA team. They must be allowed “to work directly and without interference with the Ukrainian personnel responsible for the operation of these facilities,” the G7 non-proliferation directors group said in a statement. But Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in Stockholm: “This mission will be the toughest in the history of the IAEA, given the active combat activities of the Russian Federation on the ground and also the very obvious way in which Russia is attempting its presence.” Last week, the adviser to Ukraine’s energy minister said she was skeptical the team would even reach the site. Adviser Lana Zerkal told Ukraine’s Radio NV that Russia “artificially created all the conditions for the mission not to reach the site “, although it formally agreed to the inspection. Ukraine was the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, when a reactor at the power plant north of Chernobyl exploded, releasing radioactive radiation into the atmosphere. Experts say that a leak in Zaporizhia is more likely the magnitude of the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. Energoatom was nte Monday that any leak would scatter radiation across parts of southern Ukraine and southwestern regions of Russia. – Counter-accusations – Kyiv suspects that Moscow intends to divert power from the Zaporizhia plant to the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. However, Russia insists that Ukraine is responsible for the shelling of the complex. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces had “fired three times on the area of ​​the station” from the town of Marganets, across the Dnipro River. The ministry accused Kyiv of “nuclear terrorism” and said shells had landed near areas where fresh nuclear fuel and radioactive waste were being stored. Radiation levels in the facility “remain normal,” it said. But residents of Ukrainian-controlled areas around the facility will be provided with iodine pills to reduce medical radiation risk in the event of a disaster. bur-jts/hmw/gil

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