Last week, fighting in the area temporarily disconnected the plant from Ukraine’s power grid for the first time in its 40-year history, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying the incident led to a radiation catastrophe being narrowly avoided thanks to backup generators.
On Friday, Ukrainian authorities began distributing iodine tablets to residents near the plant in case of any future radiation leak, bringing back painful memories in a country still haunted by the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.
The plant has been under Russian control since March, but Ukrainian engineers continue to operate it. Ukraine’s allies have urged Russia to hand over control, and the U.N. has warned that any attack on the plant would be “suicidal.”
News of the IAEA mission came as the U.S. accused Russia Sunday of failing to acknowledge the “grave radiological risk” at the plant, and blocking the final draft of a review of a key U.N. nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow.
A day earlier, Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of firing missiles and artillery on Ukrainian-held areas across the river from the plant. But Russia accused Ukrainian artillery units of shelling areas around the facility three times in the past 24 hours. Russia’s defense ministry said some shells exploded in close vicinity to structures containing nuclear fuel.
NBC News could not verify either side’s claims.
In its latest update Sunday, the IAEA said while Ukraine reported renewed shelling in recent days, it said all safety systems remained operational and there had been no increase in radiation levels.