UN atomic watch chief visits Ukrainian nuclear power plant threatened by war with Russia

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog visited Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on Thursday, where a recent dam burst and the start of a counter-offensive in the war by Kiev forces increased security risks.

The visit was announced by Ukraine’s national nuclear energy company, Energoatom, in a Telegram post.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Tuesday to discuss concerns about the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The IAEA has repeatedly expressed concern about the facility, which is one of the 10 largest in the world, amid fears of a possible nuclear disaster. The agency has officials stationed at the plant, which is still run by its Ukrainian staff.

The plant has been caught in the crossfire several times since Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022 and seized the facility soon after.

Last week, the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in the partially Russian-occupied Kherson region of southern Ukraine added new concern. The dam, further down the Dnieper, has helped keep water in a reservoir that cools the plant’s reactors.

The plant’s six reactors have been shut down for months, but it still needs electricity and trained personnel to operate crucial cooling systems and other safety features.

Ukraine recently said it hoped to place the last operating reactor in cold shutdown. The process inserts control rods into the reactor core to stop the nuclear fission reaction and the generation of heat and pressure.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that areas of the 1,000 kilometer (600 mile) front line in Ukraine were witnessing “fierce fighting” after Kiev launched its long-awaited counter-attack. offensive using weapons supplied by the West.

He said Ukrainian forces are “making progress”. Even so, Western analysts and military officials have warned that a campaign to drive Kremlin forces out of Ukraine could take a long time.

Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their aerial attacks on Ukraine. They launched four cruise missiles and 20 Iranian Sahed explosive drones overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said.

Ukrainian air defenses shot down all drones and a cruise missile, he added.

Russian missiles hit industrial facilities in the latest strike on the southeastern town of Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s hometown, injuring one person, local officials said.

An airstrike also hit downtown Kherson in the early hours of Thursday, punching a hole in an office building.

Russia also attacked Kharkiv and Odessa with drones overnight, but regional authorities said they were all shot down.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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