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IAEA’s Grossi says situation at Ukraine nuclear plant ‘serious’

The head of the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency visited the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant after the dam was breached.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the situation at Ukraine’s Russian-held Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was “serious” but was being stabilised.

Grossi arrived at Europe’s largest nuclear plant on Thursday to assess potential safety risks following the partial collapse of the Kakhovka dam, which caused widespread flooding and raised fears for the safety of the facility.

The plant has been shut down, but it still needs water to cool the fuel in its reactors and its spent fuel to prevent meltdowns. It uses a cooling pond to protect its six reactors from overheating. The Kakhovka Reservoir was normally used to recharge the pond but is unable to do so now as its water level has receded due to the breach, officials said.

Instead, the pond isolated from the aquifer can be replenished using deep underground wells, they said.

“On the one hand, we can see that the situation is serious,” Grossi said of the plant inspection. “Results [of the dam’s destruction] There are, and they are real.”

“At the same time, measures are being taken to stabilize the situation.”

Rafael Grossi
Members of an International Atomic Energy Agency expert mission are inspecting the condition of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant after a dam whose water is used to cool the facility’s reactors exploded last week. [International Atomic Energy Agency/Handout via Reuters]

He said it was unrealistic to expect Moscow and Kiev to sign a document on the site’s security in the face of imminent war. He also said that IAEA inspectors will be on site.

“We had a political compromise that was formulated [United Nations] Security Council. Reaching a written agreement at this stage would be unrealistic because, as we know, there are no peace or ceasefire talks between the parties,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Grossi as saying.

Grossi’s visit to the Zaporizhia plant was delayed for a day due to security concerns as heavy fighting continued between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Russian forces seized both the nuclear plant and the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam shortly after President Vladimir Putin sent them to Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Grossi has repeatedly called for a halt to fighting around the facility to avoid any catastrophic accidents.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling the facility, which has repeatedly cut power lines. The plant has diesel generators, which also have an alternate water source.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said any damage to the plant could have “catastrophic consequences”.

“It is difficult to overestimate the dangers of this kind because of the proximity of the front lines to the potential danger zone.

“[Grossi] There’s definitely some reassurance by what’s there,” he added.

Alexei Likhachev, the head of Russia’s state nuclear energy agency Rosatom, was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying that during his visit Grossi observed the safety measures taken at the plant to ensure its safety after the dam breach.

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