TOKYO (AP) — The head of the UN nuclear agency said on Friday he was pushing for access to the roof of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, following reports from Ukrainian officials that the Russians planted explosives there.
The plant was seized by Russia in March 2022, in the first weeks of the war in Ukraine, raising fears of a nuclear accident. The Russians granted only limited access to International Atomic Energy Agency officials, citing the security situation.
After a four-day visit to Japan, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said his agency was making progress on access to Zaporizhzhia, but there had been ‘certain limitations’ .
“It’s like a conversation and I’m pushing to get as much access as possible,” Grossi said in an interview with The Associated Press in Tokyo, adding that there was “marginal improvement.”
“I’m optimistic that we’re going to be able to go up and see,” Grossi said, referring to the rooftops.
The UN’s atomic watchdog has repeatedly warned of the possibility of a radioactive disaster like that of Chernobyl in northern Ukraine after a reactor explosion in 1986.
Citing the latest intelligence reports, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed on Tuesday evening that Russian troops placed “explosive-like objects” on several power units to “simulate” an attack as part of an operation under false flag.
The “foreign objects” were placed on the roof of the plant’s third and fourth generator sets, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement.
Grossi said the IAEA had done simulations to model the possible environmental impact if the plant exploded or was bombed, although he declined to give details.
The IAEA has officials stationed at the Russian-owned plant, which is still run by its Ukrainian staff.
Grossi told the AP that the IAEA recently gained access to additional parts of the site, including the cooling pond and fuel storage areas.
The Ukrainians had said the areas were mined by the Russians, but the IAEA was able to “confirm that they were not, which is important”.
On Wednesday, Grossi said the IAEA’s latest inspection of the Zaporizhzhia plant revealed no mining activity. He was speaking after a visit to the tsunami-destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where equipment has been installed for the planned release of treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.
Grossi was due to leave Tokyo later on Friday to travel to South Korea, where he will provide an explanation of the safety of Fukushima’s water release plan. In its final assessment report, the IAEA endorsed the plan, saying any environmental and health impacts would be negligible.