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The IAEA chief hopes that an agreement on the protection of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant will be reached before the end of the year

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, on November 15, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stated that he expects to reach an agreement with Russia and Ukraine on the protection of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant by the end of the year.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica published on Friday, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, said: “My commitment is to reach a solution as soon as possible. I hope by the end of the year.”

I know that the president [ruso] [Vladimir] Putin is following the process, and I do not rule out another meeting with him soon, as well as with the Ukrainian president. [Volodymyr] Zelensky”.

Grossi has tried to get Ukraine and Russia to agree on a format for a demilitarized zone around the plant, which has been damaged several times by various gunfire.

“There is a concrete proposal to secure Zaporizhia and important progress has been made. The two sides are now in agreement on some basic principles. The first is protection: it means accepting that no shooting ‘on’ the plant and ‘from’ the plant. The second is the recognition that the IAEA is the only possible path: that was the core of my meeting with President Putin in Saint Petersburg on October 11,” he told La Repubblica.

“Russia is not against an agreement and the principle of protection of the plant,” added Grossi.

As for the Ukrainian side, Grossi said: “The withdrawal of weapons from the plant is what, understandably from their point of view, the Ukrainians are demanding. And it would remain part of the general agreement.”

“Our objective is to avoid a nuclear accident, not to provoke a situation militarily favorable to one or the other,” he continued.

Regarding the current situation of the plant, Grossi said that “right now the plant has electricity to guarantee the operation of the refrigeration and emergency systems”, but “some nodes of the electrical network that supply it are being attacked periodically, with surgical precision strikes.

When asked who is responsible for these attacks, Grossi said: “It is not my job to assign responsibilities. For me the important thing is to avoid a nuclear accident and reach an agreement, not to be a judge.”

He also talked about three other nuclear power plants in Ukraine: Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnytskyi.

“A few days ago, they, too, were left without external power supply. And the Ukrainian authorities have submitted a formal request to have a permanent IAEA presence also in these plants, such as in Zaporizhia. In this way, agency staff will be present throughout Ukraine and will monitor that nuclear power plants are not used by anyone as blackmail weapons in the conflict,” Grossi said.

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