Rafael Grossi, director of the IAEA: “The situation in Zaporizhzhia is very precarious, the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe is growing”

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The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency was interviewed by the prestigious North American show “60 minutes”

Interview with Rafael Grossi on the television program “60 minutes”

Rafael Grossi, general director of the Organism International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was interviewed on the well-known television program “60 minutes” on the US network CBS and highlighted his concern about the risk of a catastrophe at the nuclear power plant from Zaporizhzhya, in the south of Ukraine, in the face of constant shelling between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the surrounding area.

Journalist Lesley Stahl asked: “The situation It's totally precarious.” “Absolutely,” Grossi replied, adding: “As long as we don't have this plant protected, the possibility of nuclear catastrophe is there.”

Zaporizhzhia has been bombed repeatedly since March, and both sides they blame each other. Before the war, hehe plant used to supply 20% of Ukraine's energy. It is now practically idle, but the reactors still need constant cooling with circulating water. If they overheat, a nuclear catastrophe could ensue in a matter of hours.

“The whole system is being cooled by electricity coming from the city, and there is bombing. What would happen if the power went out?” Stahl asked.

Grossi explained that what is in this situation are emergency systems that are activated. “Diesel generators that you can have on private property. And you don't want the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe, one of the biggest in the world, to be cooled with… basically an emergency system that depends on fuel. Because when diesel engines run out of what you put in them to make them work, what happens? So you have a merger. So you have a major radiological nuclear emergency or an accident, and this is what we are trying to prevent.”

At the end of August, after months of negotiations with both parties , Grossi led his agency's first mission to an active war zone, to inspect the stability of the site.

“As we approached the last Ukrainian checkpoint, we started to hear quite loud gunshots. Very close to us. So at that time even the people at the checkpoint were running for cover, ”he recounted.

The IAEA chief is convinced that his convoy was a target. “I think it was a clear attempt to stop us.”

But they kept going. There were soldiers, tanks and armored trucks everywhere. However, Grossi said,they were able to access all the areas of the plant that they needed to inspect.

But the shelling continues. “That is why we have been trying, pressing for the establishment of a protection zone. Which is basically not to attack the plant”, revealed Grossi.

He took his proposal to both the president Zelensky in kyiv and President Putin, in a one-on-one meeting last month in St. Petersburg.

According to Grossi, Putin know all the details about the plant: “In my conversation with him, I could see that he had a very detailed knowledge, not only of the layout of the plant, but also, and very importantly, of the electrical access, the external energy source.”

Stahl also asked about other countries that pose nuclear danger.

He assured that at the current level of production of this enriched uranium, Iran has already accumulated enough material to have more than one device, if they decided to do so . “But we don't have any information that Iran has a nuclear weapons program at this time.”

Grossi is also concerned about another country that has become a member of the nuclear club, North Korea, which is expected to conduct its first underground nuclear test since 2017.

Rafael Grossi, IAEA director: “The situation in Zaporizhzhia is very precarious, the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe is growing”

File photo: A serviceman with a Russian flag on his uniform stands guard near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on August 4, 2022 (REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

Heavy artillery attacks on the zone

This Sunday the IAEA denounced “powerful explosions in the area of ​​the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant”in the last 24 hours. Russia assured that there were up to 15 Ukrainian heavy artillery hits on Sunday alone, one of which fell on the roof of the Special Building Number 2 of the plant.

These attacks during the Saturday afternoon and again this Sunday “abruptly end a period of relative calm at these facilities and once again highlight the need to apply measures to prevent a nuclear accident”, Grossi said in a statement from the agency.

IAEA inspectors were informed by the management of the nuclear power plant that there has been damage to some buildings, systems and equipment, “but none of them is safety critical.”

Rafael Grossi, IAEA director: “The situation in Zaporizhzhia is very precarious, the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe is growing”

File photo: Grossi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg on October 11, 2022 to seek a solution to the crisis at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (Sputnik/Pavel Bednyakov/REUTERS)

Grossi has warned that this news is “extremely worrying”. “Explosions have occurred at the site of this huge nuclear power plant and it is completely unacceptable. Whoever is responsible must cease immediately. As I have said many times, they are playing with fire!” he warned..

Thus, Grossi advocated the establishment of a security zone around the plant nuclear. In recent months this possibility has been negotiated, so far without success. “I am not going to give up until it is a reality. These latest bombings show that it is needed more than ever,” he remarked.