© Reuters Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, speaks in an interview with Reuters as Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continues, in Kiev, Ukraine, September 5, 2022. REUTERS/Ivan Lyubysh-Kirdey
by Tom Balmforth
KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s state nuclear chief said on Monday that a mission by U.N. inspectors to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant had ended Russia’s occupation of the facility, and called for a new mission to the site, including U.N. peacekeepers.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is preparing a report a week after its inspectors crossed the front line last week to reach a facility where Ukraine and Russia fired at each other, threatening a nuclear disaster.
Two IAEA experts are now staying indefinitely in southern Ukraine – Europe’s largest nuclear site – after Russian troops invaded it in early March.
Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear company, told Reuters in an interview that while the establishment of a permanent mission was a good step, there was “the root of the problem” with Russian troops taking control of the site.
“We need results from this mission. These results should (resolve) the whole situation: unemployment. If not, we need to have some kind of viable outcome,” he said.
Damage to the power lines connecting the facility to Ukraine’s grid makes the situation at the plant “very dangerous” and unprecedented, saying Kyiv will hear more than expressions of concern from the IAEA.
“This is an exceptional situation. All the experts and (IAEA chief Rafael) Grossi understand themselves … what needs to be done is to destroy the work. They still cannot provide this directly because of the limitations of the mandate. ,” he said.
The IAEA described its mission as technical.
A few hours after Kotin spoke at his office in Kiev, Energoatom said the plant’s sixth and last operating reactor had been disconnected from the grid due to what it said was a Russian shell. There is no immediate response from Russia.
Kotin, which supplies more than a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity needs before the war, will supply Ukraine without the facility this winter.
“If you don’t have the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, this will be a dangerous winter. We need[it],” he said.
Ukraine has three other small nuclear power plants.
Kotin, who wears military fatigues like all Ukrainian wartime officials, proposed increasing the number of IAEA inspectors at nuclear sites.
“… The presence of other international organizations, such as UN peacekeeping forces or other international missions from the European Union, will help provide an independent view of what is going on there and ultimately help remove these invaders from the factory,” he said.