Ukraine nuclear plant
Fighting goes on near Ukraine nuclear plant; IAEA on site
Heavy fighting continued Friday near Europe's largest nuclear power plant in a Russian-controlled area of eastern Ukraine, a day after experts from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency voiced concerns about structural damage to the sprawling Zaporizhzhia site. Britain's Defense Ministry says shelling continued in the district where the Zaporizhzhia power plant sits. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office said Russian shelling damaged houses, gas pipelines and other infrastructure in the Nikopol region on the other bank of the Dnieper River. The team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, braving gunfire and artillery blasts along their route, crossed the frontlines to reach the Zaporizhzhia plant on Thursday in a mission to help safeguard the plant against catastrophe. Fighting Thursday prompted the shutdown of one reactor — underscoring the urgency of their task. Read:UN inspectors arrive at Ukraine nuclear plant amid fighting The 14-member delegation arrived in a convoy of SUVs and vans after months of negotiations to enable the experts to pass through the front lines. Speaking to reporters after leaving colleagues inside, IAEA director Rafael Grossi, said the agency was “not moving” from the plant from now on, and vowed Thursday a “continued presence” of agency experts. Grossi said it was “obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times” — but couldn't assess whether by chance or on purpose. “I will continue to be worried about the plant until we have a situation which is more stable,” he said. Grossi said IAEA experts toured the entire site, including control rooms, emergency systems and diesel generators, and met with the plant’s staff. The plant has been occupied by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian engineers since the early days of the 6-month war. Ukraine alleges Russia is using it as a shield to launch attacks, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the area. Read:Russia launches war games with China amid tensions with US Before the IAEA team arrived, Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, said Russian mortar shelling had led to the shutdown of one of its reactors by its emergency protection system and had damaged a backup power supply line used for in-house needs. IAEA announced plans for a news conference later Friday from its headquarters in Vienna to discuss the mission. Energoatom on Friday accused Russian forces of “making every effort” to prevent the IAEA mission from getting to know the facts on the ground. On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov said Russia was making sure that the plant was secure and safe, and that mission “accomplishes all of its plans there.” Elsewhere in Ukraine on Friday, Zelenskyy's office said four people were killed and 10 injured over the last day in the eastern Donetsk region, a key hub of the Russian invasion, and reported rocket attacks on Sloviansk that destroyed a kindergarten. It said heavy fighting continues in two districts of the Kherson region to the south.
UN inspectors arrive at Ukraine nuclear plant amid fighting
A U.N. inspection team entered Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Thursday on a mission to safeguard it against catastrophe, reaching the site amid fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces that prompted the shutdown of one reactor and underscored the urgency of the task. The 14-member delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in a convoy of SUVs and vans after months of negotiations to enable the experts to pass through the front lines and get inside Europe's biggest nuclear plant. “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,” IAEA director Rafael Grossi, the mission leader, declared after the group got its first look at conditions inside. Also read: UN inspectors head to Ukraine nuclear plant in war zone But he added: “I will continue to be worried about the plant until we have a situation which is more stable." As the experts made their way through the war zone toward the complex, Russia and Ukraine accused each other of shelling the area and trying to derail the visit. The fighting delayed the team’s progress. “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," Grossi said. Just before the IAEA team arrived, Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, said Russian mortar shelling had led to the shutdown of one of its reactors by its emergency protection system and had damaged a backup power supply line used for in-house needs. Also read: Eyes on Kherson as Ukraine claims bold move on Russians One of the plant’s reactors that wasn’t operating was switched to diesel generators, Energoatom said. Once inside the plant, Grossi said, his experts were able to tour the entire site, including control rooms, emergency systems and diesel generators. He said he met with the plant's staff and residents of the nearby village, Energodar, who asked him for help from the agency. He reported that the team had collected important information in its initial inspection and will remain there to continue its assessment. “It is obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times by chance, deliberately — we don’t have the elements to assess that," Grossi said. “And this is why we are trying to put in place certain mechanisms and the presence, as I said, of our people there.” The Zaporizhzhia plant has been occupied by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian engineers since the early days of the 6-month-old war. Ukraine alleges Russia is using it as a shield to launch attacks, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the area. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had tough words for the IAEA delegation. While applauding its arrival at the plant, he said independent journalists were kept from covering the visit, allowing the Russians to present a one-sided, “futile tour.” And he said that while Grossi agreed to support Ukrainian demands for the demilitarization of the plant — including the withdrawal of Russian forces from it — the IAEA has yet to issue such a call publicly. Fighting in early March caused a brief fire at its training complex, and in recent days, the plant was briefly knocked offline because of damage, heightening fears of a radiation leak or a reactor meltdown. Officials have begun distributing anti-radiation iodine tablets to nearby residents. Experts have also expressed concern that the Ukrainian staff is overworked and stressed out from the occupation of the plant by Russian forces — conditions they say could lead to dangerous errors. Grossi said after his initial tour that the Ukrainian employees are "in a difficult situation, but they have an incredible degree of professionalism. And I see them calm and moving on.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow expects “impartiality” from the team. “We are taking all the necessary measures to ensure that the plant is secure, that it functions safely and that the mission accomplishes all of its plans there,” he said. Ahead of the visit, Russia's Defense Ministry reported that Ukrainian forces unleashed an artillery barrage on the area and sent a group of up to 60 scouts to try to seize the plant on the Dnieper River. It said that the Ukrainian troops arrived in seven speedboats but that Russian forces “took steps to destroy the enemy,” using warplanes. Some of the Ukrainian shells landed 400 meters (yards) from the plant’s No. 1 reactor, Russian authorities said. The Russian-installed administration in Enerhodar reported that at least three residents were killed early Thursday by Ukrainian shelling. Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, accused Russian forces of shelling Enerhodar and a corridor that the IAEA team was set to go through. Neither side’s version of events could immediately be independently verified. The fighting came as Ukraine endeavored to start the new school year in the middle of a war. Just over half of the country's schools are reopening to in-person classes despite the risks. In other developments, authorities with the Russian-backed separatist government in the eastern region of Donetsk said 13 emergency responders were killed by Ukrainian shelling in Rubtsi, a village in neighboring Kharkiv province. Much of the fighting in recent weeks and months has centered on the area.
U.N. monitors head to troubled Ukraine nuclear plant
A team of international nuclear inspectors was heading Wednesday to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant caught in the middle of the fighting in southern Ukraine amid international concern of a potential accident or radiation leak. Rafael Grossi, the head of the the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he hoped to establish a permanent mission in Ukraine to monitor Europe’s largest nuclear plant. “These operations are very complex operations. We are going to a war zone. We are going to occupied territory. And this requires explicit guarantees from not only from the Russians, but also from the Republic of Ukraine,” Grossi said in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv before the monitoring the mission’s departure. “We have been able to secure that. ... So now we are moving.” The power plant has been occupied by Russian forces and operated by Ukrainian workers since the early days of the 6-month-old war. Also read: Russia, Ukraine trade claims of nuclear plant attacks It was recently cut off temporarily from the electrical grid because of fire damage, causing a blackout in the region and heightening fears of a catastrophe in a country haunted by the Chernobyl disaster. Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said Kyiv is seeking international assistance to try and demilitarize the area. “We think that the mission should be a very important step to return (the plant) to Ukrainian government control by the end of the year,” Galushchenko told The Associated Press. “We have information that they are now trying to hide their military presence, so they should check all of this.” Zaporizhzhia is a vital source of energy for Ukraine and remains connected to its power grid. Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling the wider region around the nuclear power plant and the risks are so severe that officials have begun distributing anti-radiation iodine tablets to nearby residents. Grossi met Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the mission that is expected to last several days. The inspectors from the IAEA, a United Nations body, where due to reach the Zaporizhzhia region, 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of the Ukrainian capital, later Wednesday.
UN agency to inspect Ukraine nuclear plant in urgent mission
A U.N. nuclear watchdog team set off on an urgent mission Monday to safeguard the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant at the heart of fighting in Ukraine, a long-awaited trip the world hopes will help avoid a radioactive catastrophe. The stakes couldn't be higher for the International Atomic Energy Agency experts who will visit the plant in a country where the 1986 Chernobyl disaster spewed radiation throughout the region, shocking the world and intensifying a global push away from nuclear energy. “Without an exaggeration, this mission will be the hardest in the history of IAEA," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. Underscoring the urgency, Ukraine and Russia again accused each other of shelling the wider region around the nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, which was briefly knocked offline last week. The dangers are so high that officials have begun handing out anti-radiation iodine tablets to nearby residents. Also read: Russia, Ukraine trade claims of nuclear plant attacks To avoid a disaster, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi has sought access for months to the Zaporizhzhia plant, which Russian forces have occupied since the early days of the six-month-old war. Ukrainian nuclear workers have been operating the plant. “The day has come,” Grossi tweeted Monday, adding that the Vienna-based IAEA’s “Support and Assistance Mission ... is now on its way.” Ukraine's Foreign Ministry spokesman said the team, which Grossi heads, was scheduled to arrive in Kyiv on Monday. In April, Grossi had headed an IAEA mission to Chernobyl, which Russian forces occupied earlier in the war. The IAEA said that its team will “undertake urgent safeguards activities,” assess damage, determine the functionality of the plant's safety and security systems and evaluate the control room staff's working conditions. Ukraine's nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, warned Monday of Russian attempts to cover up their military use of the plant. “The occupiers, preparing for the arrival of the IAEA mission, increased pressure on the personnel ... to prevent them from disclosing evidence of the occupiers’ crimes at the plant and its use as a military base,” Energoatom said, adding that four plant workers were wounded in Russian shelling of the city where they live. Also read: Ukraine, Russia trade more blame on threats to nuclear plant Ukraine accused Russia of new rocket and artillery strikes at or near the plant, intensifying fears that the fighting could cause a massive radiation leak. So far, radiation levels at the facility, which has six reactors, have been reported to be normal. Ukraine has alleged that Russia is essentially holding the plant hostage, storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the facility. World leaders have called on the Russians to demilitarize the plant. Satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies on Monday showed armored personnel carriers on a road near the reactors, damage to a building's roof also near the reactors, and brush fires burning nearby. Ukraine reported more Russian shelling in Nikopol, across the Dnieper River from the nuclear power plant, with one person killed and five wounded. Relentless shelling has hit the city for weeks. In Enerhodar, a few kilometers from the plant, the city’s Ukrainian mayor, Dmytro Orlov, blamed Russian shelling for wounding at least 10 residents. Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, said in Stockholm that he expects the IAEA mission to produce “a clear statement of facts, of violation of all nuclear, of nuclear safety protocols." He added, "We know that Russia is putting not only Ukraine, but also the entire world at threat at the risk of nuclear accident." In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will ensure the IAEA mission's security, and he called on other countries to “raise pressure on the Ukrainian side to force it to stop threatening the European continent by shelling the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and surrounding areas.” Over the weekend, Energoatom painted an ominous picture of the threats at the plant by issuing a map forecasting where radiation could spread if a leak occurred. Elsewhere on the battlefield, the Ukraine military claimed it had breached Russia’s first line of defense near Kherson just north of the Crimea, the peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Such an advance would represent a strategic breakthrough — if confirmed. Kherson is the biggest Ukrainian city that the Russians now occupy, and reports about Ukrainian forces preparing for a counteroffensive in the region have circulated for weeks. For its part, Russia's Defense Ministry said its forces had inflicted heavy personnel and military equipment losses on Ukrainian troops trying to attack in three directions in Ukraine's southern Kherson and Mykoaiv regions, the state news agency Tass reported. Residents reported explosions Monday at a Kherson-area bridge over the Dnieper River that is a critical Russian supply line, and Russian news reports spoke of air defense systems activating repeatedly in the city, with nighttime explosions in the sky Monday night. Russian-installed officials, citing Ukrainian rocket strikes, announced the evacuation of residents of nearby Nova Kakhovka — a city that Kyiv’s forces frequently target — from their workplaces to bomb shelters on Monday. In another Kherson region city, Berislav, Russian news agencies reported that Ukrainian shelling had damaged a church, a school and other buildings. But in a war rife with claims and counterclaims that are hard to verify independently, the Moscow-appointed regional leader of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, dismissed the Ukrainian assertion of an offensive in the Kherson region as false. He said Ukrainian forces have suffered heavy losses in the area. And Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, cautioned against “super-sensational announcements” about a counteroffensive. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacted to speculation about whether his forces had launched a major counteroffensive in southern Ukraine by asking in his nightly video address Monday, “Anyone want to know what our plans are? You won’t hear specifics from any truly responsible person. Because this is war.” In the eastern Donetsk region, eight civilians were reported killed and seven wounded. Russian forces struck the cities of Sloviansk and Kostyantynivka overnight and the region's Ukrainian governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, urged residents to evacuate immediately.
IAEA chief says mission to big Ukraine nuclear plant on way
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s long-awaited expert mission to the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine “is now on its way.” IAEA director general Rafael Grossi has long sought access to the Zaporizhzhia plant, Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest, which Russian forces have controlled since soon after the war began. “The day has come,” Grossi wrote on Twiter, adding that the Vienna-based IAEA’s “Support and Assistance Mission ... is now on its way.” “We must protect the safety and security of #Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility,” he wrote. “Proud to lead this mission which will be in #ZNPP later this week.” Grossi posted a picture of himself with 13 other experts. Read:Ukraine, Russia trade more blame on threats to nuclear plant Russia and Ukraine have traded claims of strikes at or near the plant in recent days, intensifying fears that the fighting could cause a massive radiation leak.