The ongoing, tense situation surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine was the subject of a recent interview with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi when he appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes program.
The Zaporizhzhia facility is in an area of Ukraine that became occupied by Russian forces in late February 2022. Though Ukrainian staff remain at the now mostly idle plant, artillery shells have repeatedly landed at and near the plant over the past several months, with Ukrainian officials—along with many Western media outlets—blaming Russia, while Russian officials and media blame Ukraine.
Action from the IAEA: Following months of negotiations with both sides, inspectors from the IAEA, led by Grossi, finally visited the site in late August and early September, and the agency has been monitoring the situation since then with an observation mission at the site. In the interview, which aired on November 20, Grossi did not attribute blame for the shelling to either side.
The interview: Grossi recounted the IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhia to 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl, saying, “This place is at the front line, which makes the whole thing so volatile and in need of an urgent action. . . . Until we have this plant protected, the possibility of the nuclear catastrophe is there.” He recalled that, despite being shot at, the IAEA inspectors were able to proceed with their mission at the plant, adding that “All the things we needed to see, we could see.”
Grossi said that evidence of shelling at the switchyard, “where the external power comes to cool the reactors down,” indicated that the artillery attacks were meant to cut off the power source to the plant.
He told Stahl that he has proposed to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian president Vladimir Putin the establishment of a “protection zone” around the plant.
Stahl ended the interview by asking, “Is Mr. Putin trying to use this plant as a weapon? Someone [Stahl provided no name] said to us the other day, ‘You know, this is his dirty bomb, this plant.’” Grossi replied, “Yes, but if you protect it, there is no dirty bomb.”