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    UN inspectors head to Ukraine nuclear plant despite fighting

    KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – The company that oversees Ukraine’s nuclear power plants said shelling by Russian forces triggered a shutdown at one of the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant, underscoring the risks faced by a team of United Nations (UN) inspectors that was heading there to assess its safety.

    A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by its director Rafael Grossi, set off for the Russia-held nuclear power plant – Europe’s largest – despite the heavy shelling for which Ukraine and Russia trade blame.

    Ukraine’s Enerhoatom said Russian mortar shelling led to the shutdown of one of its reactors by its emergency protection system. Shelling also damaged a back-up power supply line used for in-house needs, and one of the plant’s reactors that wasn’t operating was switched to diesel generators, the company said.

    “There has been increased military activity, including this morning until very recently,” Grossi said, adding that after being briefed by the Ukrainian military he decided to get moving despite the inherent risks. “But weighing the pros and cons and having come so far, we are not stopping.”

    He noted that the risks are “very, very high” in the so-called grey zone between Ukrainian and Russian positions, but “we consider that we have the minimum conditions to move”.

    A spokesman for the IAEA later said that the mission has been delayed on the Ukrainian-controlled side of the frontline for some three hours, adding that Grossi “has personally negotiated with Ukrainian military authorities to be able to proceed and he remains determined that this important mission reaches the ZNPP today”.

    The Zaporizhzhia plant has been occupied by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian engineers since the early days of the six-month-old war.

    Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks to media in Kyiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP
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