1 September 2022
It is being reported that the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who are going to visit the Russian-held Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine have finally arrived there.
The inspection team was previously held at a checkpoint in Ukraine near the nuclear facility.
Officials from both Ukraine and Russia have confirmed that UN inspection teams have now reached the Zaporizhia nuclear facility.
For the past few days, Russia and Ukraine have been accusing each other of shelling around the center.
Ukraine says renewed Russian shelling near the facility has forced it to shut down one of its nuclear reactors.
Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency mission, said his team was determined to visit the Zaporizhia nuclear plant despite the several-hour delay.
Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant is the largest plant in Europe.
Although the city of Zaporizhia is still controlled by Ukraine, the power plant is located 34 kilometers away on the other side of the Dnieper River. The center is controlled by the Russian military.
Russia wants ‘unbiased’ report
Before the inspection team arrived at the nuclear site, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow expected the UN inspectors to give an “unbiased” report.
He said that Russia is working to ensure that the inspection team’s visit to the Zaporizhia center is completed safely.
“We are doing everything we can to keep this nuclear facility safe, to keep it running safely.”
The most difficult mission of UN inspectors
The UN inspectors’ mission to Zaporizhia is being described as the most difficult mission in the history of the organization.
The center is located in an active war zone in southern Ukraine. To get there, the fleet of UN inspectors had to cross a so-called “grey zone”, controlled by the armies of the two warring parties.
Rafael Grossi, who heads the UN mission, acknowledges that there are grave risks. But still they have a very important job to do.
There are total 14 inspectors in this mission. They will examine damage to the Zaporizhia nuclear plant caused by the fighting and interview Ukrainian technicians who still operate the plant.
But it is not clear how long they can actually spend in the nuclear power plant.
Rafael Grossi said he hoped they would be able to visit the nuclear site for at least a few days, although Russian-appointed local authorities said they would only be there for a day or two at most.
It is also not clear how far they will be given access to the nuclear facility.
What is in Ukraine? kind of There is a risk of a nuclear accident
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been talking about the risk of a major nuclear disaster in his country for the past few days. Especially because of the way the fighting is going on around the center of Zaporizhia. How much risk is there in Ukraine? The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner mentions three risks in particular:
1. Risk of radiation exposure
The Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant has six nuclear reactors. They are quite secure. They are much safer in design than the nuclear reactor that exploded in Chernobyl in 1986.
However, to keep this furnace cool, there is a need for uninterrupted power supply. If there is a power outage for a period of time, there is a risk of damage to the nuclear plant’s radioactive waste, and the resulting release of radioactivity into the surrounding environment.
Now in Zaporizhia the wind blows from the north. It will turn northeast on Friday. As a result, if there was an accident there, the radiation would spread to Odessa.
2. Strategic nuclear weapons
Russia’s current military doctrine allows for the use of ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons up to 15 kilotons on the battlefield. One such weapon is enough to destroy a football stadium or everything within a mile or two.
So far, however, there is no indication that Russia will use such weapons. But if Russia is badly off in this war, no one knows what President Putin might actually order.
3. Nuclear weapons
These are weapons of mass destruction. It is possible to destroy a huge city with one such missile or nuclear bomb. President Putin likes to point out that they have many such weapons.
The US, Britain and France also have many such nuclear weapons. But after 1945 till date no one has used such a weapon in anger. In the 1990s, Ukraine returned all of its nuclear weapons to Russia during the Soviet era. Now they say it was a big mistake.