U.N. Agency in Talks With Russia and Ukraine to End Fighting at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

KYIV, Ukraine – The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said on Monday that there were active negotiations with both Ukraine and Russia to end military actions in and around the plant. Zaporizhzhia nuclear power.

The nuclear complex in southern Ukraine – Europe’s largest – has been hit by frequent shelling, sparking global fears of a nuclear disaster.

“I have seen signs that they are interested in this deal,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at a news conference. While Mr. Grossi declined to go into detail due to the delicate diplomacy involved, he said he had witnessed “the two sides working with us and asking questions, a lot of questions.” .

Mr. Grossi visited the plant last week with a team of inspectors from the agency, two of whom remain and will remain in the position for the foreseeable future. The nuclear facility is occupied by Russian forces but is still being operated by Ukrainian engineers at the behest of Ukrainian energy officials.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has called for the establishment of “Safe and secure protected area” around the plant, but it does not have the authority to order a ceasefire or order Russian forces to leave the plant.

Grossi’s comments on Monday suggest what is being discussed is not a demilitarized zone and perhaps more like an agreement to silence weapons in and around the plant.

Since the start of the war – and especially since shells began to land in and around the facility early last month – nuclear engineers working under tremendous pressure have been racing to disarm. resolve crisis after crisis to prevent a nuclear accident.

Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for the shelling. Mr. Grossi declined to specify who was responsible. He said on Monday that shelling continued despite the presence of international inspectors, stressing that hostilities must stop because they continue to pose a danger even after all All six reactors at the plant have been shut down.

Ukraine made the decision to take the Zaporizhzhia plant offline on Sunday – a step the Biden administration has been urging Ukrainian authorities to take for weeks. However, US officials say the Ukrainians do not want to lose a vital source of energy. The plant, when fully operational, provides about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity. And it is feared that, once shut down, Russia could find a way to connect it to the Russian grid, rather than Ukraine’s.

Mr. Grossi said that Ukrainian officials have made it clear that they consider the plant an important part of their power grid and that engineers are now working to repair the high-voltage cables to eventually allow it to be restored. bring back online.

While the decision to take the plant offline reduces the risk of a nuclear disaster, Mr. Grossi says he remains deeply concerned about the plant’s long-term connection with external power, which is not it has lost at least twice in the last five weeks.

Even if all reactors are now in a so-called “cold-off” condition, the essential equipment dedicated to cooling spent fuel rods needs a steady source of energy.

All four high-voltage lines connecting the plant to the Ukrainian power grid remain cut. A reserve line connected to a nearby thermal power plant is the only connection to external power.

“Even when closed in cold conditions, the plant still needs power,” said Mr. Grossi, “or there could be a nuclear accident.”

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