IAEA inspects Ukraine nuclear power plant, establishes ongoing presence

(Update 2: Adds information on Grossi visit)

Moscow/Lviv, Sep 1 (EFE).- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Thursday inspected the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which is under the control of Russian troops, after the head of the team of experts, Rafael Grossi, decided to establish a “continued” presence at the plant and leave some of the experts there, apparently at least until Saturday.

The inspection team examined the plant accompanied by representatives of Russia’s state-run atomic energy agency Rosatom, and plant employees, according to Russia’s official Novosti news agency.

Grossi, the IAEA director general, left the site after about three hours, saying that during that time he and the other 13 experts had been able to collect “much information” in their first inspection tour of the key areas.

The Argentine said that he had left the plant but some IAEA experts will remain at the center.

“We are finishing out long-awaited visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant … Of course, there is a lot more to do. My team is staying on, and … – most importantly – we are establishing a continued presence … by the IAEA here,” Grossi said after the visit in a video he posted to his Twitter account.

Grossi did not specify how many experts he was leaving at the plant or how long they would stay, and he also did not clarify whether this would be the permanent IAEA presence at the plant that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded. He said that he himself had decided to visit the plant, deeming it “necessary” to stabilize the situation and regularly obtain trustworthy and impartial information.

As it said on its Telegram account, Ukraine’s state-run atomic energy company Energoatom stated that “five IAEA representatives are remaining” at the plant and “it is expected that they will remain at the nuclear center until Sept. 3.”

The head of the pro-Russian administration of the city of Energodar, Alexandr Volga, told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the experts who had remained will be housed at a hotel there.

The rest of the delegation, including Grossi, were required to leave the territory controlled by Russia before 8 pm Moscow time, he added, which they did.

During the visit, as Russian news agencies reported, some of the residents of Energodar, which is under Russian control, called upon Grossi to “halt Ukraine’s provocations against the nuclear center” and presented him with a fragment of an alleged Ukrainian missile.

The IAEA mission arrived at the Zaporizhzhia center a little before 2:30 pm. In recent weeks, the plant has been the target of ongoing attacks that have put nuclear security there at risk, and both Russia and Ukraine accuse one another of perpetrating the attacks.

On Thursday, one of the two reactors that remains in operation was deactivated by emergency mechanisms “due to another mortar attack by Russian occupiers,” and the reserve energy supply line used for the internal needs of the plant was damaged, according to Energoatom.

“This is the second time in the last 10 days that the criminal actions of the Russian soldiers have caused the closure of the unit and taking the plant offline,” it said.

The IAEA mission, which arrived on Wednesday at Zaporizhzhia, located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Ukrainian city of Energodar, “was not easy,” according to Grossi, since it was “high risk” due to the resurgence of combat in the area.

Nevertheless, Grossi said that the “minimum conditions” existed to visit the plant and after having traveled so far to get there, the team “was not going to stop.”

Right from the start, Kyiv and Moscow have been exchanging accusations of staging attacks on the plant, Energodar and the route the mission convoy was to take, with an eye toward hampering the investigation.

“Russia demonstratively strikes on Energodar, along the IAEA mission official route. To blame it on (Ukraine). … This a demonstration of (Russia’s) real ‘interest’ in the inspection,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

The Russian Defense Ministry, in turn, accused Ukraine of having attacked the IAEA’s meeting place with the Russians in Vasilievka, near Energodar, and bombarding the plant and the dormitory city within it and trying to “take” the plant with two groups of saboteurs numbering up to 60 people.

Amid the fighting, the IAEA confoy was stopped for three hours at the Novooleksandrivka checkpoint, some 20 km (12.5 mi.) from the front line waiting for the situation to stabilize so that they could continue their journey.

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