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The United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Wednesday said it was headed to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) with “explicit guarantees” for its team’s safety. .
Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been repeatedly threatened with a barrage of bombing that officials warn could result in a massive nuclear disaster if the power plant is damaged.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said before leaving south of Kiev that his team has finally gained access to the plant after “six months of strenuous effort”.
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“We have a very, very important task there to do, to assess the real situation there, to help stabilize the situation as much as possible,” he told reporters. “I am really very aware of the importance of this moment, but we are ready. The IAEA is ready.”
The director general’s trip comes just a week after the ZNPP suffered the most severe damage inflicted on it when the power lines were cut off by bombing, disconnecting two of the plant’s reactors from the power grid and activating its emergency protection systems.
Both Ukraine and Russia blamed each other for the bombing incident.
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Moscow, which has occupied the plant since March 3, said Ukrainian forces fired on the plant in an attempt to target its troops.
While Kiev has blamed Russia, emphasizing its repeated warnings of a nuclear disaster that could surpass that of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe if the plant were attacked.
Grossi did not say how long his team intends to stay or what they will do to better protect the plant, but the director general said this is the first time the IAEA will enter an active war zone.
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“These operations are very complex,” he told reporters. “We are going to a war zone. And this requires explicit guarantees not only from the Russian Federation, but also from the Ukrainian Republic, and we have been able to ensure that.”
The IAEA hopes to establish a permanent mission to the ZNPP, which has continued to be run by Ukrainian technicians since its occupation earlier this year.
Grossi leads a team of 13 men and a woman to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.