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IAEA could visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in days

This handout satellite image courtesy of Maxar Technologies released on Aug 19, 2022, shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. (HANDOUT / SATELLITE IMAGE ©2022 MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES / AFP)

VIENNA / UNITED NATIONS – The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday said its expert mission could visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine "within the next few days if ongoing negotiations succeed."

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in a statement that he is continuing to consult "very actively and intensively with all parties so that this vital IAEA mission can take place without further delay."

UN Undersecretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo called for the cessation of all military activities around the Zaporizhzhia plant

He reiterated the importance of the IAEA mission in stabilizing the nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

The plant, one of Europe's largest, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, but Ukrainian staff has continued to operate it. In recent weeks, Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations of strikes on the facility.

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The IAEA said it had been informed by Ukraine that renewed shelling of the Zaporizhzhia plant in recent days damaged the facility's infrastructure, including laboratory and chemical facilities.

UN Undersecretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo called for the cessation of all military activities around the Zaporizhzhia plant.

Agreement is urgently needed to re-establish the Zaporizhzhia plant as purely civilian infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the area, she told the Security Council in a briefing.

"We must be clear that any potential damage to the plant, or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, leading to a possible nuclear incident would have catastrophic consequences, not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond," she warned.

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"At this moment, it is imperative that we receive the expressed commitment of the parties to stop any military activities around the plant to enable its continued safe and secure operations," she said. "To paraphrase the (UN) secretary-general's blunt warning, any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicidal."

In early August, disturbing reports of an escalation of shelling around the plant began to emerge, said DiCarlo.

"Regrettably, despite numerous calls and appeals, instead of de-escalation, we continue to see almost daily reports of alarming incidents involving the plant," she said. "If such incidents continue to escalate, we could face a disaster."

The United Nations continues to fully support the critical work of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its efforts to ensure the safe operation of Zaporizhzhia and other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, said DiCarlo.

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"In close contact with the IAEA, the UN has assessed that we have the logistics and security capacity in Ukraine to support any IAEA mission to the plant from Kiev, provided Ukraine and Russia agree. We once again urge the parties to provide the IAEA mission with immediate, secure and unfettered access to the site," she said.