UN atomic watchdog warns of threat to nuclear safety as fighting spikes near plant in Ukraine


KYIV, Ukraine — The United Nations atomic watchdog has issued a stern warning regarding potential nuclear safety concerns stemming from escalating conflict near Europe's largest nuclear power facility in Ukraine. This comes as Ukrainian forces persist in their counteroffensive efforts.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported a significant increase in fighting near the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, with its experts on-site confirming numerous explosions over the past week. These incidents raise concerns of heightened military activity in the vicinity, though no damage to the plant has been reported.


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi expressed his deep concern over the precarious situation, given the current heightened military tensions in the region. It's worth noting that the IAEA team learned of temporary reductions in staff levels at the nuclear power plant due to apprehensions about further military activity in the area.


"Whatever happens in a conflict zone, wherever it may be, everybody would stand to lose from a nuclear accident, and I urge that all necessary precautions must be taken to avoid it happening," emphasized IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.


The IAEA continues to express concerns over the potential for a radiation leak from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, one of the world's largest nuclear facilities, despite its six reactors being offline for months. Maintenance of critical systems like cooling and safety features still requires power and qualified personnel.


As Ukrainian forces seek to expand their territorial gains, the U.K. Defense Ministry has reported that Russia is reinforcing its positions to counteract Ukrainian advances. This redeployment strategy appears to limit Russia's offensive capabilities along other parts of the front line.


The Russian military has also made changes to its command and control structure, aiming to protect command infrastructure and enhance information sharing, as noted by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.


In ongoing conflict, Russian forces continue their attacks in Ukraine, resulting in casualties in the northeastern Sumy region.


Regarding a key economic matter, the Kremlin has reaffirmed its position that Russia will not extend a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea until Western demands regarding Russian agricultural exports are fully met. Moscow insists on the original agreements reached in July 2022, rather than the proposed subsidiary solution involving the Russian Agricultural Bank and SWIFT.


Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi visited Ukraine, offering support and solidarity, particularly in the face of atrocities committed during Russia's invasion, including in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed gratitude for Japan's continued partnership and support.