Atomic energy plant | conflict in Ukraine: UN team departs for nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia


An inspection team from the UN nuclear watchdog is on its way to Ukraine's embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the organization's head said.

The crew is anticipated to arrive at the plant later this week, according to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi.


The largest nuclear facility in Europe and Ukraine must be kept safe and secure, he said.


Since March, Russian forces have been occupying the nuclear power plant.


Fighting around the plant in the southeast of Ukraine has raised concerns about its security and safety throughout the world.


Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the region.


Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, declared on Thursday that Europe was "one step away" from a nuclear catastrophe after the plant's brief power outage and subsequent use of backup generators.


According to him, fires destroyed the overhead power wires, turning off the facility for the first time.


Russia and Ukraine each laid the blame for the damage-causing strikes on the other. The BBC was unable to independently confirm who was at fault.


Early in March, the Russian military seized control of the plant, which is still being run under challenging circumstances by Ukrainian employees.


The IAEA's visit will be significant in being able to confirm what is happening on the ground because the Kremlin had previously signaled that it would only allow international inspectors to visit the facility.


Before officially supporting a visit, Ukraine has expressed concern that an IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhia would validate Russia's occupation of the nuclear plant.


"There are fresh incidents at or close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power facility almost every day. There is no more time we can afford to waste "The Director General of IAEA remarked.


Shelling surrounding the plant, according to experts, is not the main concern because of the plant's high protective walls.


Cutting off its electricity source, though, would be risky. If the electricity to the nuclear reactors and backup generators were to be lost, there would be no power for the pumps that keep the hot reactor core cool, which would cause the fuel to begin to melt.


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