IAEA head ignores gunfire to visit Ukraine nuclear plant, experts say to stay

© Reuters. Members of the expert delegation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, visit the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant during the Ukraine-Russia conflict outside Enerhodar in Zaporizhzh

By Tom Balmforth

ZAPORIZHZHIA REGION, Ukraine (Reuters) – The head of the United Nations’ atomic watchdog, ignoring gunfire he said came uncomfortably close, visited the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine on Thursday and said his specialists would stay at the facility.

Rafael Grossi, who spent several hours at the factory, said he will continue to worry until the situation at Zaporizhzhia stabilizes. Both Russia and Ukraine say they fear a possible radioactive disaster as a result of shelling that both sides blame.

Grossi said he was able to tour the entire site, seeing key areas like the emergency system and the control room. His team will now need to do a lot of work to complete its analysis of the technical aspects of concern.

“We’re not going anywhere. The IAEA is there now, it’s at the plant and it’s not moving – it’s going to stay there,” said tired-looking Grossi after what he called a long day.

“We will continue to be at the factory with some of my specialists,” he told reporters after he returned to the territory held by Ukraine.

Those experts will provide what he calls an objectively neutral technical assessment of what is happening on the ground, he said. They will dig deeper into the conditions and issue a report.

“It is clear that plants and their physical integrity have been compromised several times… this is something that cannot continue to happen,” he said.

The IAEA team, which had crossed the front lines into Russian-held territory, was delayed by several hours due to shelling near the site of the plant.

“It’s been quite difficult this morning but … having come this far, I’m not going to stop,” Grossi said.

“There are moments where the obvious firepower, the heavy machine guns, the artillery mortars, at two or three times[it]is really disturbing, I will speak for all of us.”

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