International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors risk their lives on dangerous missions, from the radioactive aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in Japan to the politically charged Iranian nuclear program. This mission in Zaporizhzhia is a riskier one because of war, but it is necessary for unknown reasons.

The IAEA, in partnership with other international organizations, is deploying teams to nuclear power plants in Ukraine. This is because of the war between Ukraine and Russia.

There have been numerous occasions where the IAEA inspection teams have entered war zones, but this is the first time they are entering the situation in Zaporizhzhia.

Rafael Grossi, the Director General of the IAEA, visited a power plant in Ukraine this week.

Speaking to reporters, he said the agency would not be moving from the plant. He promised a continued presence of experts in the area.

What will the IAEA be monitoring at the facility?

“The IAEA can not enforce safety and security standards.” The quote was from Mohammad Rauf of the IAEA

IAEA has permanent employees in Ukraine to ensure safety during the ongoing war.

The IAEA has extensive knowledge on Iranian nuclear programs and monitors the country. With its in-depth surveillance, knowledge of Iranian nuclear program, and influence over foreign powers during the negotiation process, the IAEA is the main arbiter of Iran’s nuclear program.

However, the monitoring of Iran has been compromised after withdrawing from the deal.

The countries of Russia and Ukraine have been accusing each other of shelling the country’s land. The situation has the potential to be just as devastating.

“If a nuclear power plant were in the midst of armed conflict and there was shelling near it, the risks are unacceptable. Any misfired shell could hit one of the reactors or disable some system that can lead to much bigger consequences.”

Ukraine Nuclear Plant

Risky missions are not new to the International Atomic Energy Agency. They have obtained a long history of fighting with radioactive aftermath and politically charged Iranian nuclear program. The deployment of inspectors in the war, Zaporizhzhia, is taking their risk to a new level and signaling volume the lengths they will go to avoid a potential nuclear disaster.

IAEA head of verification and security, Tariq Rauf said that inspectors are often sent into areas of armed conflict. However, the situation in Zaporizhzhia is unprecedented.

The IAEA’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi highlighted the risks when he led a team to the plant. The team included officials from Slovakia, Ukraine, and the United States.

He told reporters that the IAEA was not moving from the plant; they will be there for a long time and have a strong presence inside.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency, they advise countries on nuclear safety but have no power over the state. Ukraine has a Russian stronghold in their power station, making it more difficult to work with.

There are multiple international organizations that believe it is important to find permanent staff in Ukraine.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan has set up an office in Ukraine three times and sent investigators into the conflict zone to gather evidence amid widespread reports of atrocities. National government, such as the Netherlands, have sent expert investigators as well.

Kahn urges the UN to work in order to protect Ukrainian citizens and preserve their basic rights, rather than choosing a side.

There is potential for the conflict in Zaporizhzhia, with Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of shelling the area, to be just as destructive.

“You can’t have a nuclear power plant in the middle of a war zone,” Rauf said. “If they get hit, we’re all in big trouble, then.”

Associated Press article