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IAEA’s Grossi visits Kyiv ahead of trip to nuclear plant

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KYIV (Reuters) -U.N. nuclear chief Rafael Grossi visited Kyiv on Tuesday on a trip to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and visit Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after a huge river dam nearby was destroyed last week.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Sunday it needed access to a site near the plant to check water levels after the reservoir lost a large portion of its water because of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam downstream.

Both sides have accused each other of sabotaging the dam, leading to catastrophic flooding. Western countries say they are still gathering evidence but believe Ukraine would have had no reason to inflict such a disaster on itself.

Russian forces captured the hydro-electric dam and the nuclear plant in southern Ukraine shortly after its February 2022 invasion.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant uses a cooling pond to keep its six reactors from potentially disastrous overheating. Ukraine’s nuclear energy company said on Tuesday that the level of the pond was stable and that the water was high enough.

As of Tuesday morning, the water level stood at 16.67 metres (54.69 feet), which Energoatom said was “quite enough to meet the needs of the station”.

The Kakhovka reservoir was normally used to refill the pond, but cannot do so now because of its falling water level, Ukrainian nuclear authorities say.

Instead, the pond, which is separated from the reservoir, can be replenished using deep underground wells, they say.

The water in the pond is also expended very slowly, they add, because the reactors are not producing power and water does not evaporate quickly during the cooling process.

(Reporting by Anna Pruchnicka; editing by Tom Balmforth, Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)

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