UN nuclear agency chief says the 'physical integrity' of Europe's largest nuclear plant has been 'violated' and that he's worried

UN nuclear agency chief says the 'physical integrity' of Europe's largest nuclear plant has been 'violated' and that he's worried
Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks to press members after inspecting the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant with delegation in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on September 01, 2022.Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • A nuclear watchdog agency inspected the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine.
  • IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said the "physical integrity" of the plant was "violated."

A top UN nuclear watchdog official said the "physical integrity" of southern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — caught in the center of intense hostilities and fighting — has been "violated."

"It is obvious that the plant and physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times," International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters on Thursday, according to media reports, including The Guardian.

Grossi returned on Thursday from a highly anticipated inspection of the plant, which is occupied by Russian forces and is the largest in Europe.

"There were moments where fire was obvious, heavy machine gun, artillery, mortars, at two or three times — really, very concerning, I would say, for all of us," Grossi said in a video captured by freelance journalist Sergio Olmos.

Grossi and a crew of IAEA inspectors arrived at the plant Thursday afternoon to investigate the facility's safety and security after facing delays caused by heavy shelling in the area. Leading up to the visit, the agency said its mission faced the dangers of increased military activity but said it wouldn't stop them from completing an inspection of the site.


"Of course, there is a lot more to do — my team is staying on," Grossi said in a video message after touring the plant. "Most importantly," he added, the IAEA is "establishing a continued presence" at the facility.

The IAEA's visit comes after weeks of shelling around and at the plant, causing damage to the physical facility, triggering power disconnections, and forcing the plant — which is staffed by Ukrainian civilians — to shut down at times. Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame for various attacks.

Western intelligence has accused Russia of using the plant's protected status as a shield, which has left Ukrainian forces reluctant to attack. Watchdog agencies, including the IAEA, have warned that fighting severely raises the risk of a major accident or nuclear disaster and have pushed for international inspections to assess the plant's stability.

Meanwhile, the European Union has sent millions of anti-radiation tablets to Ukraine so it can protect civilians living near the plant if an accident triggers the release of radiation.