KYIV/VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog will inspect the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine this week, it said on Twitter on Monday.
The announcement comes after months of negotiations in which the International Atomic Energy Agency sought to gain access to the facility, which Ukrainian staff are operating under the orders of Russian forces, a situation that the IAEA has said threatens the safety of Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
The mission led by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi will assess any damage from recent shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), which Russia and Ukraine have blamed on each other.
“We must protect the safety and security of Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility,” Grossi said on Twitter with a picture of himself with 13 other staff members, apparently at the VIP terminal of Vienna airport. “Proud to lead this mission which will be in #ZNPP later this week,” he added.
Neither he nor the agency specified when they would arrive at Zaporizhzhia.
Ukraine’s energy ministry said it would not comment on the IAEA mission trip “for security reasons”.
The United Nations and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the plant to ensure it is not a target in the conflict.
The IAEA tweeted separately that the mission would assess physical damage, evaluate the conditions in which staff are working at the plant and “determine functionality of safety & security systems”.
It would also “perform urgent safeguards activities”, a reference to keeping track of nuclear material.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Francois Murphy; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov and Francois Murphy; Editing by Tom Hogue and Himani Sarkar)