IAEA's Rafael Grossi says security zone around Zaporizhzhia plant is 'top priority'

Situation at Ukrainian plant is 'extremely precarious'

A Russian army vehicle parked in front of the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine. Reuters
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Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will push hard to establish a protection zone around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine when he meets officials in Kyiv and Moscow this week.

There is “lots going on” in the seized facility, the largest of its kind in Europe, he told delegates at the Energy Intelligence Forum in London on Wednesday.

Speaking on a phone call while he travelled by train, Mr Grossi said the six reactors at Zaporizhzhia remain powered down and described the situation at the site as “extremely precarious”.

The IAEA will not assume the position of judge, he said and added that the establishment of a security and safety perimeter around the nuclear plant would be at the top of his agenda in talks with Ukrainian and Russian officials.

“That is the priority,” he said. “It’s the reason behind my trip.

“The situation regarding external power continues to be extremely precarious.

“We do have at the moment external power but it is fragile. There is one line feeding the plant at the moment which allows it to operate but we are still tantalisingly close to bigger generators.”

Russian soldiers took control of the plant in early March after invading Ukraine and they continue to detain workers at the site.

Mr Grossi said those forced to work at the facility are “heroic” and are carrying out their duties “very professionally”.

IAEA experts are in Zaporizhzhia “reporting daily on the situation” and have relayed the continuous falling of shells close to the site.

Pressed on whether the IAEA’s potential erection of a security zone around Zaporizhzhia would effectively sanction Russia’s theft of the site, Mr Grossi said he had a “clear mission” to “ensure the safety and security of this plant”.

He said that, without such a protection zone, there is no political commitment by any power “to exercise restraint” other than international law, which prohibits attacking nuclear plants.

Asked if he would broach the subject of President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine when he arrives in Moscow, Mr Grossi said he would bring up “every relevant” issue.

Updated: October 06, 2022, 5:51 AM