The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that he and his team saw everything they asked to see at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, were not surprised by anything, and he will issue a report early next week on his findings.
“My concern would be the physical integrity — would be the power supply and of course the staff,” Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters at the airport in Vienna moments after landing.
He said it is very important for the IAEA to have a physical presence at the facility.
“What we are doing there is stabilizing, looking at safety, the security, at the safeguard aspects of the plant, in the conviction that if we get this right, this will have some bearing, [some] influence in what happens overall,” he said.
A team of 13 experts accompanied Grossi, and he said six have remained at Zaporizhzhia. Of those six, two will remain until hostilities cease, which he said will make a huge difference.
“If something happens or if any limitation comes, they are going to be reporting it — report it to us,” Grossi said. “It is no longer a matter of ‘A said this, and B said the contrary.’ Now the IAEA is there.”
Shelling near plant
Since August, there has been shelling in and around the plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since early March. Each side blames the other.
“The military activity and operations are increasing in that part of the country and this worries me a lot,” Grossi said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian engineers continue to operate the facility in the tense atmosphere.
“It was evident that this group was very withdrawn throughout our presence there,” Grossi said of the Russians. “What we got from our Ukrainian counterparts is that in general this is the case, they are working with their Russian technical counterparts. It’s not an easy situation, it’s a tense situation.”
The IAEA team of experts carried out its inspection of the Zaporizhzhia plant Thursday, even as fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces raged nearby.
The nuclear watchdog chief said he hopes the presence of his team at the plant will help deter those who may have “intentions” on it.
“Knowing that international inspectors are there witnessing and informing immediately what is happening, has, I think has, an inherent, very important stabilizing effect,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Thursday that “Ukraine did everything to make this mission happen. But it is bad that the occupiers are trying to turn this IAEA mission — a really necessary one — into a fruitless tour of the plant. I believe that this will be prevented.”
All ‘necessary measures’ for safety
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow expects impartiality from the U.N. inspectors.
“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.
With the nuclear plant in a war zone, world leaders have expressed fears it could be damaged and result in a radiation disaster like that at Ukraine’s Chernobyl plant in 1986.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reiterated his call Wednesday for Russia to fully demilitarize the area around the plant.
“They are playing games. They are gambling with the nuclear security,” Borrell said. “We cannot play war games in the neighborhood of a site like this.”