The UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) collaborating to protect nuclear power plant in Ukraine

International experts en route to nuclear power plant

A long-awaited visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine “is now on its way,” the UN body announced on Monday. 

The IAEA has sought to gain access to the plant — the biggest in Europe — for months after it was captured by Russian forces in the early days of the Ukraine war. 

Concerns over the nuclear power station have grown in recent weeks, with the site experiencing shelling and fires, which both Russia and Ukraine blame on one another.  

These strikes have increased the urgency of a visit by international inspectors amid intensifying fears that the fighting could set off a nuclear leak. 

Last week, shelling temporarily knocked the facility offline and fires at the site have previously damaged radiation sensors. 

“The day has come,” IAEA director general Rafael GrossiGrossi Tweeted on Monday morning, adding that the UN agency’s “Support and Assistance Mission … is now on its way.”

“We must protect the safety and security of #Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility,” he wrote. “Proud to lead this mission which will be in #ZNPP later this week.” 

Grossi, who didn’t provide a more precise timeline or give further details on the visit, posted a picture of himself with 13 other experts.

The IAEA tweeted that the mission will assess physical damage to the facility, “determine functionality of safety & security systems” and evaluate staff conditions, among other things.

Ukraine has alleged that Russia is essentially holding the plant hostage, storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the facility, which has six nuclear reactors. 

In August, UN chief Antonio Guterres called for military operations around Zaporizhzhia to halt immediately, describing them as “suicidal.”