IAEA team heads to Zaporizhzhia plant amid tense situation

A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency has left a base city in southeastern Ukraine for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. An inspection by the team is expected to begin as early as Thursday. But the tense situation there is making the plan uncertain.

The IAEA team arrived in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday and headed to the plant about 60 kilometers away on Thursday.

Repeated shell firing has damaged some of the plant's facilities, raising concern about a serious accident there.

Before the team's departure, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters that he acknowledges there are high risks, but that the team has "a very important mission to accomplish."

The governor of the Zaporizhzhia region said on social media that Russian forces are shelling the route to the plant agreed on for the team. The governor called on Russia to stop provocation and allow the team to enter the facility.

Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom said on its website that shelling by Russia's military on Thursday activated a safety protocol that stopped the No. 5 unit -- one of two operational reactors at the plant.

Meanwhile, Russia's defense ministry said four shells exploded some 400 meters from the No. 1 reactor due to Ukrainian military provocation. It also said Ukrainian troops on seven boats tried to take over the plant, but that Russia's military prevented the attempt.