Ukraine nuclear plant 'hanging by a thread' -IAEA

STORY: A ceasefire around Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant may be in sight.

The U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that both Ukraine and Russia are interested in a proposed protection zone around the Russian-held nuclear plant.

Speaking in Vienna, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said both sides were engaging with the agency as it races to protect the plant and avert potential disaster.

"The situation is untenable. We are playing with fire. We can not continue in a situation, where we are one step away from a nuclear accident. The safety of the Zaporizhzhia power plant is hanging by a thread. And we see that one day we repair one line, only to see it go down the next day and to wonder what is going to happen?"

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling at Europe's biggest nuclear power plant -- risking nuclear catastrophe by cutting power lines essential to cooling the reactors, even with all six shut down.

The last operating reactor was put into a "cold shutdown" after an external power line was restored over the weekend.

Russian forces have occupied Zaporizhzhia since March, while Ukrainian staff operate the plant under stressful conditions the IAEA has repeatedly warned are unsafe.

Grossi has called both for an immediate stop to shelling and a more formal "nuclear safety and security protection zone" around the plant.

"Basically, it's a commitment that no military action will include or will imply aiming, of course, at the plant, or a radius that could be affecting its normal operation. This is what we expect.”

Two IAEA officials are stationed at Zaporizhzhia in what the agency calls a continuous presence at the plant.