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

The head of the UN atomic energy agency visits the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after dam breach.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the situation at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine is “serious” but being stabilised.

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

The plant has been shut down, but it still needs water to cool the fuel in its reactors and its spent fuel to prevent a meltdown. It uses a cooling pond to keep its six reactors from overheating. The Kakhovka Reservoir was normally used to refill the pond but cannot do so now because of its falling water level due to the breach, officials said.

Instead, the pond, which is separated from the reservoir, can be replenished using deep underground wells, they said.

“On the one hand, we can see that the situation is serious,” Grossi said on a visit to the plant. “The consequences [of the dam’s destruction] are there, and they are real.”

“At the same time, there are measures that are being taken to stabilise the situation.”

Rafael Grossi
Members of an International Atomic Energy Agency expert mission inspect conditions at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after a dam whose water is used to cool the facility’s reactors burst last week following an explosion [International Atomic Energy Agency/Handout via Reuters]

He said it was unrealistic to expect Moscow and Kyiv to sign a document on the site’s security while fighting raged nearby. He also said that IAEA inspectors would remain at the site.

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

Grossi’s trip to the Zaporizhzhia plant was delayed by a day for security reasons as heavy fighting continues between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

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

Grossi has repeatedly called for an end to the fighting in the vicinity of 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, as well as alternative water sources.

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

“It is hard to overstate the sort of dangers posed to this potentially hazardous place, given its location close to the front lines.

“[Grossi] is clearly, to some degree, reassured by what is in place there,” he added.

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

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies