An international organization must assess the security condition of the largest nuclear facility in Europe that is the target of bombing.
After weeks of negotiations, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived early Thursday afternoon at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. The mission of 14 experts, chaired by the head of the organization, Rafael Grossi, was to analyze the working conditions of this most important nuclear site in Europe. “We managed to gather a lot of information in these few hours. I saw the most important things I had to see ” he said as he left the stage, according to the accompanying Russian media. However, some of the delegations were still there. “IAEA remains”, Rafael Grossi said.
Until the very end, the commencement of inspection activities remained uncertain, as Kyiv and Moscow accused each other for weeks of military behavior. The Zaporozhye reactor has been shut down due to Russian bombings, Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator Energoatom said on Thursday that one of the plant’s six reactors was still operational.
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This plant, which came under the control of the Russian army at the beginning of March, is still managed by the state agency Energoatom. The vast majority of the 11,000 workers are still on site. Russian engineers have neither the skills nor the means to run a site on their own, which was certainly built by the Soviets but has been largely modernized with Western techniques since 1991.
On Thursday, Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of carrying out artillery shelling on Enerhodar, as well as the route the inspectors were supposed to take. Russia assured, without providing any evidence that “Ukrainian commandos (…) tried to take over the factory”.
500 Russian soldiers on the spot
Certainly, the Russian troops are using the site of the power plant to store military vehicles there. Satellite images show parked trucks, especially near reactor 1. At least 500 Russian soldiers would be installed there, officially for safety reasons. In Kiev, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross called for a halt to all hostilities around the plant, warning that there would be an attack “Catastrophic” “It’s time to stop playing with fire and instead take specific measures to protect this place”, said Robert Mardini. “The slightest miscalculation can wreak havoc that we will regret for decades.”
The slightest miscalculation can wreak havoc that we will regret for decades
Robert Mardini, chairman of the International Committee of the Red Cross
The duration of the IAEA mission raises questions. The international organization provides for several days, at least three days of work on site. Experts also hope to be able to leave the monitoring group behind. However, an anonymous Ukrainian source was concerned on Thursday that “The mission is shorter than expected”.
The long-term goal of an international organization is to bring the plant to a neutral status that allows its full safety to be ensured. An option that Moscow rejects, while Kyiv asks to regain full control. For the director of Energoatom, the mission will be a success if it obtains the demilitarization of Zaporijiji.