Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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The cooling towers of the Rivne nuclear plant in Varash, Ukraine.
The cooling towers of the Rivne nuclear plant in Varash, Ukraine. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency will travel to Ukraine next week to set up a constant presence of safety experts at all of the country’s nuclear power plants.

“Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi will be in Ukraine next week to establish a continuous presence of nuclear safety and security experts at all the country’s nuclear power facilities, significantly stepping up the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help prevent a nuclear accident during the current military conflict,” according to the statement from the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

While the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant already has IAEA team members on location, experts will also be stationed at the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant in western Ukraine in “the coming days.” The IAEA said Grossi will travel to the South Ukraine and Rivne nuclear power plants — as well as to the Chernobyl site — to set up the missions of two IAEA members at each site.

Grossi will also meet with senior Ukrainian government officials in Kyiv to discuss setting up a repeatedly called-for nuclear safety and security protection zone around Zaporizhzhia. Kyiv has accused Russia of using the plant as cover to launch attacks, knowing that Ukraine could not return fire without risking hitting one of the plant’s six reactors. Moscow, meanwhile, claimed Ukrainian troops were targeting the site.

“I remain determined to make the much-needed protection zone a reality as soon as possible. My consultations with Ukraine and Russia are making progress, albeit not as fast as they should. I remain hopeful that we will be able to agree and implement the zone soon,” Grossi said.

According to the statement, the Zaporizhzhia plant’s last remaining 330 kilovolt backup power line has been reconnected to the plant, after experiencing disconnections in the last week.

Grossi also “reiterated his serious concerns about the pressure that ZNPP staff are facing, with potential consequences for nuclear safety and security,” according to the statement.

“The reduced ZNPP staffing levels combined with psychological stress due to the on-going military conflict and the absence of family members who fled the area have created an unprecedented situation that no NPP staff should have to endure,” he said.

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