IAEA Team Mission To Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Successful
ENERHODAR - The UN IAEA Team, led by Director-General Rafael Grossi, has arrived, conducted their intended safeguarding mission, and left the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).
The Trip, which has been closely followed by media around the world, including our own Standeford Journal, reported on the trip as the team was in motion.
The team had a 13-hour delay at the last checkpoint prior to arriving at the ZNPP due to artillery shelling. The fighting between Russia and Ukraine, so close to the plant, initiated the shutdown of one reactor during the visit of the team.
According to the Associated Press, after a long and treacherous trip, the 14-member delegation arrived in a convoy of vans and SUVs after months of negotiating their entry into Europe's biggest nuclear plant to inspect it and ensure greater European safety.
Though it was not clear who was firing the artillery, Russia and Ukraine both accused each other of attempting to derail the visit by the IAEA team.
"There were moments when fire was obvious - heavy machine guns, artillery, mortars, at two or three times were really very concerning, I would say, for all of us,... The IAEA is now there at the plant and it's not moving. It's going to stay there. We're going to have a continued presence there at the plant with some of my experts,... I will continue to be worried about the plant until we have a situation which is more stable... It is obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times y chance, deliberately - we do not have the elements to assess that,... And this is why we are trying to put in place certain mechanisms and the presence, as I said, of our people there." - Rafael Grossi, team member leader, Director-General, IAEA, United Nations
Prior to the team's arrival, the state-run nuclear company in Ukraine, Energoatom, stated that mortar shelling from The Russian Federation has prompted a shutdown of one of the nuclear reactors, which was initiated automatically by the plant's emergency protection safeguard system and damaged a backup power supply feed, which is used at the ZNPP, prompting the reactor to be switched over to diesel power for cooling.
Once the IAEA team reached the plant and was able to go inside, they were able to tour the entire campus, including the diesel generators, control rooms, emergency systems, and storage areas, and were able to collect vital information in its initial inspection. Rafael Grossi vowed to remain there so they could continue their assessment. The team also met with the staff that worked at the plant, and residents of Enerhodar, who had pleaded for help from the IAEA.
The ZNPP has been occupied by Russian Federation forces since early March when it was taken over by them in the early days of the "special military operation" in Ukraine. The plant has also been run by the original Ukrainian staff, and not Russian staff. Heavy fighting still exists around the plant, and both sides accuse each other of causing damage to the ZNPP.
President Zelenskyy has been hard with criticism of the IAEA, though he did praise their arrival to the plant, the IAEA, led by Grossi, has yet to support a Russian withdrawal from it, publicly. It is also stated that Zelenskyy voiced his opinion regarding the prevention of independent journalists covering the visit, which has allowed The Russian Federation to show a one-sided version of the tour, which he termed as "futile".
In early March, during the initial fighting, there was a fire incident at the training complex at the ZNPP, and the power plant has been knocked off-line multiple times, sparking fears of a meltdown. Potassium-Iodide tablets are being dispensed to the public on a regular basis now, in the surrounding region.
The IAEA experts, while examining the Ukrainian staff, are stating that they are stressed and severely overworked by the occupying Russian force. These are conditions that could lead to dangerous errors. Grossi commented on the staff saying "the employees are in a difficult situation, but they have an incredible degree of professionalism. And I see them calm and moving on."
The Russian Defense Ministry has reported that leading up to the IAEA visit, Ukrainian forces fired a heavy barrage of heavy artillery into the area as well as dispatched 60 military personnel to try and take the plant which resides on the Dnieper River. The Ukrainians arrived in seven fast watercraft, but they were halted by the Russian Air Force. Russian officials have stated that Ukrainian shells landed 400 meters from reactor one at the ZNPP. The shelling also killed 3 civilians at nearby Enerhodar.
Neither Russia's story nor Ukraine's story could be independently verified in regards to the situation prior to the IAEA team's arrival at the plant.
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