The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said he has reached separate agreements with Ukrainian and Russian authorities on what assistance his agency will provide as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters a second month.
Fears have been high throughout the five-week-long war of a potential nuclear accident, as Russia indiscriminately shells many parts of Ukraine. On March 3, shelling around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine exacerbated those fears.
“We delivered some equipment; this is a start,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters after returning to Vienna Friday from a field visit to Ukraine and meetings in Russia. “But we have a structured set of activities that are going to start as of next week.”
That assistance will include sending expert teams and equipment, as well as establishing a rapid assistance mechanism.
“In case there was a situation — an emergency — that maybe taking place, we are setting up a mechanism whereby we could be sending a team to assess and to assist almost immediately,” Grossi said.
Early in its invasion, Russian troops occupied the defunct Chernobyl plant. On Thursday, it was confirmed they were leaving. Reports emerged that hundreds of Russian soldiers had radiation poisoning after digging trenches in the most polluted part of the Exclusion Zone, known as the Red Forest.
Grossi said the general radiation situation around the plant is “quite normal” now and he could not confirm the reports about the Russian troops being sickened.
“There was a relatively higher level of localized radiation because of the movement of heavy vehicles at the time of the occupation of the plant, and apparently this might have been the case again on the way out,” Grossi said. “We heard about the possibility of some personnel being contaminated, but we don’t have any confirmation about that.”
The director general said that his staff would be moving to Chernobyl “very, very soon” and that there is a lot of technical work to be done there, as they have lost a lot of remote monitoring capabilities that need to be reconnected. He said that could be done quickly.