Chris Lange, FISM News
A United Nations nuclear watchdog group says a mission of top experts is finally making its way to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine endangered by continued fighting.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) attempts to gain access to Europe’s largest nuclear power station were thwarted for months until now. The facility has been occupied by Russian forces since the beginning of the six-month war, causing concerns that it is not able to be cared for properly which could lead to widespread fallout.
Fears of a massive radiation leak ratcheted up significantly in recent days amid recent rocket and artillery strikes at or nearby the plant. Residents in the area were given anti-radiation iodine pills on Friday after the facility was temporarily knocked offline under a fusillade of shelling.
IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi announced a group will arrive at Zaporizhzhya later this week, saying, “We must protect the safety and security of Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility.
The day has come, @IAEAorg's Support and Assistance Mission to #Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) is now on its way. We must protect the safety and security of #Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility. Proud to lead this mission which will be in #ZNPP later this week. pic.twitter.com/tyVY7l4SrM
— Rafael MarianoGrossi (@rafaelmgrossi) August 29, 2022
The nuclear watchdog agency said the mission would assess physical damage to the facility and evaluate the “functionality of safety & security systems” and staff conditions, among other things. Ukrainian workers still operate the site.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that it is “without an exaggeration, this mission will be the hardest in the history of IAEA.”
“For decades, nuclear safety has remained Ukraine’s top priority, especially given our tragic past,” Kuleba tweeted on Sunday, referencing the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant reactor leak considered to be the worst disaster in the history of nuclear power generation.
“Russian invaders turned Zaporizhzhya NPP into a military base putting the entire continent at risk,” Kuleba continued, adding: “Russian military must get out of the plant — they have nothing to do there!”
Ukraine and Russia have traded ongoing accusations of firing at or near the facility.
Kyiv on Monday reported that Russian shelling in Nikopol, a city separated from the Zaporizhzhia site by the Dnieper River, killed one person and left five others injured. Ukrainian officials also reported that 10 residents were injured in strikes in nearby Enerhodar, according to Reuters.
Russia’s defense ministry said its air force struck Ukrainian workshops at a Motor Sich factory in the Zaporizhzhia region where helicopters were being repaired, according to Russian state news agency RIA, which also reported that Russian forces destroyed fuel storage facilities in the Dnipro region.
Ukrainian children to return to school
Ukrainian workers are building bomb shelters and working to repair thousands of buildings damaged by Russian shelling ahead of the new school year which begins next month. Reuters reports that there are close to 6 million Ukrainian children who will return to school in September, either in person or online.
Russia’s planned military increase unlikely to have much impact on war
Britain’s defense ministry said it remains unclear exactly how Russia would achieve an announced increase in its armed forces but said that it is unlikely to boost Moscow’s fighting power in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week signed a decree to increase the size of his country’s military by 137,000 soldiers. The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense pointed out, however, that the expansion of armed forces won’t make up for “tens of thousands of troop losses” in the war and Russia’s ongoing recruitment woes.