The UN atomic watchdog’s director says he’s heading to Moscow for talks on nuclear safety in Ukraine

FILE - IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi attends a joint press conference with head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Mohammad Eslami in Tehran, Saturday, March 4, 2023. Iran has further increased its total stockpile of uranium, according to a report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog seen by The Associated Press on Monday, and continues to bar several of the most experienced inspectors from monitoring its nuclear program. The IAEA report estimated that as of Feb. 10, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was at 5,525.5 kilograms, an increase of 1038.7 kilograms since the last quarterly report in November 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

FILE – IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi attends a joint press conference with head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Mohammad Eslami in Tehran, Saturday, March 4, 2023. Iran has further increased its total stockpile of uranium, according to a report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog seen by The Associated Press on Monday, and continues to bar several of the most experienced inspectors from monitoring its nuclear program. The IAEA report estimated that as of Feb. 10, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was at 5,525.5 kilograms, an increase of 1038.7 kilograms since the last quarterly report in November 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

VIENNA (AP) — The U.N. atomic watchdog agency’s director said that he’s due to depart for a trip to Moscow on Tuesday for high-level talks with Russian officials to discuss the issue of nuclear safety in Ukraine.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi made the announcement on Monday, the first day of a regular meeting of the agency’s 35-nation board of governors in Vienna. There was no immediate confirmation of the trip from the Kremlin.

“The situation continues to be very fragile,” Grossi told reporters, referring to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant located in southeastern Ukraine.

The safety of the nuclear plant, which is Europe’s largest, is “of tremendous importance in terms of international peace and security,” he said.

Grossi said that it was “the intention” that he will meet personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his upcoming trip, but added that he would expect Moscow as the host of the talks to officially confirm it.

Grossi last met with Putin in October 2022.

Grossi visited Ukraine in February, and crossed the front line to visit the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in person as part of the IAEA’s efforts to prevent a nuclear disaster amid an ongoing war. He also held a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He told reporters in Vienna that he considered it important to maintain a dialogue with both sides.

Grossi said that he expected to discuss “technical issues” related to “the future operational status of the plant” in Moscow. He also said that if the six-unit Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is currently in cold shutdown, is to be restarted, he would need to discuss “what kind of safety evaluation” will be made. He also said that he needs to speak about the issue of the external power supply lines, since what the IAEA currently sees is “fragile and thin.”

The IAEA has repeatedly expressed alarm about the Zaporizhzhia facility amid fears of a potential nuclear catastrophe. The plant has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, and seized the facility shortly after.

The plant’s six reactors have been shut down for months, but it still needs power and qualified staff to operate crucial cooling systems and other safety features.

The plant suffered eight losses of off-site power since the start of the war, forcing it to temporarily rely on emergency diesel generators, while continuing to face challenges related to staffing.

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