IAEA's Grossi visits Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

29 March 2023

The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) director general travelled to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to see first-hand the security situation at the facility which sits on the frontline of Russian and Ukrainian forces.

This picture was taken during Grossi's last visit, six months ago (Image: IAEA)

The safe arrival of Rafael Mariano Grossi at the plant - after he crossed from Ukrainian to Russian controlled territory - was reported shortly before noon on Wednesday with Ukrainian nuclear energy operator Energoatom posting a video on its Telegram channel showing the convoy of vehicles - including armoured vehicles - arriving at the plant.

It is the second visit during the war to the plant by Grossi, and the first since last September. According to Energoatom, this time Grossi planned "to see how the situation at the ZNPP has changed, to talk with the nuclear engineers who operate it, and also to act as a guarantor of the rotation of members of the agency's permanent mission, which has been working at the Zaporizhzhia NPP since September 2022".

According to Russia's Tass news agency, the IAEA delegation consisted of 11 people, including three inspectors who are taking over from the three current IAEA team based at the plant. There are also seven people from the UN Department of Safety and Security, Tass said.

Grossi has been seeking to negotiate a security and protection zone around the plant, to reduce the risks to its safety posed by the conflict, however the details of its size, and how it would operate have proved difficult to agree.

There are six reactors at Zaporizhzhia, which has been under Russian military control since early March 2022, with two units in hot shutdown, producing heat for the nearby town of Energodar, and two more in cold shutdown. As well as shelling in and around the site, there have also been occasions when the external power supply has been lost to the plant and it has had to rely on emergency diesel generators to provide the power it needs for safety requirements, such as cooling and systems.

Ahead of Grossi's arrival, Renat Karchaa, adviser to Rosenergoatom's CEO, was quoted by Tass as saying that Russia continued to be "fully open to dialogue on ensuring nuclear security" but "we are far from having any illusions that Grossi's visit will be a game-changer ... although anything can happen, what will actually be implemented is another issue altogether, but a lack of results is not a reason not to hold dialogue".

He also said that since Grossi's September visit the occupied plant has had a structure built to protect a nuclear waste storage facility from the artillery strikes, Tass reported.

Ahead of his visit, after meeting with Ukraine's president, Grossi said in an interview with Reuters that he was continuing with his efforts to get agreement on measures to protect the plant, but said: "We are making some adjustments on the proposals that we are putting on the table. I am confident that it might be possible to establish some form of protection, perhaps not emphasising so much the idea of a zone, but on the protection itself: what people should do, or shouldn't do to protect (the plant) instead of having a territorial concept.

"I am not giving up in any way. I think on the contrary we need to multiply our efforts, we need to continue."

Tass reported that about five hours after his arrival Grossi and his convoy "passed the Vasilyevka checkpoint towards Ukraine".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News