The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, is set to visit the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine on Wednesday. Ahead of his visit, he detailed his concerns for the facility, which was seized by Russian troops last March. Since then, it has been shelled several times.
Here are highlights from the interview:
What is the purpose of the visit?
Mr. Grossi said one purpose was to talk to management and consolidate the permanent presence of I.A.E.A. inspectors who first arrived there last September.
Russia’s state-owned nuclear company, Rosatom, has taken over the management of the plant. Rosatom is attempting to force plant operatives and engineers to sign contracts with it, rather than with Ukraine’s state nuclear company.
Mr. Grossi said he did not know whether Rosatom intended to connect the plant to Russia’s grid.
He also said it was imperative that the nuclear power plant had enough water for its cooling systems.
Ukrainian authorities have said in recent weeks that Russian forces, who control a dam downstream from the plant on the Dnipro River, had been allowing the water level to fall in the reservoir that feeds the nuclear facility.
What is the situation at the plant?
Recent reports, including from some Ukrainian officials, suggest that Ukraine could launch a counteroffensive in the south of the country in the coming weeks. That could mean an escalation of fighting in the region of the nuclear plant.
Mr. Grossi did not comment on the reports but said that inspectors at the plant had reported “increased military activity” in the area.
“There is a quite obvious increase in the number of troops on both sides and military equipment,” he said. “Our teams are also observing and hearing and seeing more military activity, including detonations, regular, almost permanent.”
He said that the increased activity “most definitely” increased the risk at the plant.
Is the I.A.E.A. still seeking to establish a safety zone around the plant?
Ukrainian officials have said that Russia had effectively blocked the plan to establish a safety and security zone around the plant because it would almost certainly involve their withdrawal.
Mr. Grossi said he would “never give up” on the plan and was consulting with all sides.
“We are refocusing the effort in the sense that we are talking less about a zone and more about establishing protection, which means that we are trying to agree on a certain number of principles and commitments that both sides will have to agree with,” he said.
Does he have enough international backing?
Mr. Grossi warned the I.A.E.A.’s board of governors recently against complacency, urging the members to be mindful of the perils facing the plant. Its luck, he said, could run out.
He said on Tuesday that he was getting “closer and closer” to achieving the right level of international backing and an agreement on protecting the plant.
“There have been moments where some have had questions, but I see now a growing, very sustained trend in favor of protecting the plant,” he said. He singled out the European Union and China as being clear about this.
“Weaponizing a nuclear power plant, targeting a nuclear power plant, sabotaging a nuclear power plant is a terrible idea,” he said.
What is the historical context of the crisis?
Mr. Grossi said that the crisis is without precedent in civilian nuclear history.
He said the way this situation is managed was important, particularly at a time when China, Brazil, India and countries in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are seeking to develop their nuclear industries.
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