The UN Atomic Watchdog's Director Arrives in Russia for Talks on Nuclear Safety in Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) -- The U.N. atomic watchdog agency's director has arrived in Russia for talks on nuclear safety in Ukraine, where Europe's largest nuclear power plant is at risk amid fighting.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly expressed alarm about the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant amid fears of a potential nuclear catastrophe. The plant has repeatedly been caught in the crossfire since Russia sent troops into 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.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi arrived at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday evening, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. Grossi announced the trip on Monday, the first day of a regular meeting of the agency's 35-nation board of governors in Vienna.

The Kremlin said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Grossi during his visit.

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

The IAEA chief last met with Putin in October 2022.

He told reporters in Vienna that he considered it important to maintain a dialogue with both sides, and added that the situation with the Zaporizhzhia plant "continues to be very fragile."

Grossi said that he expected to discuss "technical issues" related to "the future operational status of the plant" in Moscow. He also said that the plant 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 plant has suffered eight losses of off-site power since the seizure, forcing it to rely on emergency diesel generators temporarily, and it continues to face challenges related to staffing.