LEILA FADEL, HOST:
An international mission to understand what exactly is happening at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine is reportedly getting underway. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency tweeted out a photo of the team that's heading to southern Ukraine, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. This comes amid renewed shelling at the facility and mounting fears over a potential nuclear accident. NPR's Elissa Nadworny reports from Dnipro, Ukraine.
ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: After weeks of negotiating access to the plant, the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog says his team will visit the facility in the coming days. IAEA head Rafael Grossi says his 14-member team will assess the damage, make safety checks and establish some safeguards. Russia has occupied the plant since March. The timing of this visit, should it happen, comes after several incidents in and around the plant in recent days. On Sunday night, Russian troops shelled the town that houses the plant. And over the weekend, both Russian and Ukrainian officials accused each other of shelling the area around the plant. And late last week, the plant had a power outage, the first in its history, that experts say could have led to a meltdown. In a nightly address last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy put full blame on Russia.
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PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Non-English language spoken).
NADWORNY: He says Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster. The plant has been reconnected to Ukraine's electricity grid. But the company charged with nuclear safety in Ukraine says recent damage, quote, risks "sputtering radioactive substances." One worry is that fire could break out at the plant if damage from the shelling is not contained. The planned visit by the IAEA team later this week will be the first time independent observers will see what's actually going on at the plant. They also plan to look into the working conditions of the Ukrainian staff there.
Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, Dnipro, Ukraine.
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