Nuclear plant in Ukraine is under fire, UN warns: “You are playing with fire!”
- The IAEA reported that the Ukrainian plant was rocked by 12 explosions
- The plant is controlled by Russian forces
- Moscow and Kyiv blame each other for the shelling
- “You’re playing with fire!” – head of the IAEA
LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant was rocked by shelling on Sunday, prompting condemnation from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which said such attacks risked a major nuclear meltdown. disaster.
More than a dozen explosions rocked Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Saturday night and Sunday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said. Moscow and Kyiv blamed each other for shelling the facility.
“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is extremely disturbing,” said IAEA chief Rafael Grossi. “There were explosions at the site of this large nuclear plant, which is completely unacceptable. Whoever is behind this must stop immediately. As I have said many times, you are playing with fire!”
Citing information provided by plant management, the IAEA team on the ground said there was damage to some buildings, systems and equipment at the site, but none so far critical to nuclear safety and security.
Repeated shelling of the plant in southern Ukraine, which Russia took control of shortly after its February invasion, has raised concerns about the potential for a major accident just 500 km (300 miles) from the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, Chernobyl in 1986. disaster.
The Zaporozhye nuclear power plant provided about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before Russia’s February 24 invasion and was forced to operate with backup generators several times. It has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled, water-moderated reactors containing uranium 235.
The reactors are shut down, but there is a risk that the nuclear fuel will overheat if the cooling systems are cut off. The shelling repeatedly cuts power lines.
PARTIES SHIFT BLAME
Both Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of attacking the plant several times during the conflict and risking a nuclear accident, and traded accusations again on Sunday.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukraine had fired projectiles at power lines feeding the plant, while TASS reported that some of the site’s storage facilities had been hit by Ukrainian fire, citing an official with Russian nuclear operator Rosenergoatom.
“They were shelling not only yesterday, but today, they are shelling right now,” said Renat Karchaa, an adviser to Rosenergoatom’s chief executive, adding that any artillery attack on the site posed a threat to nuclear safety.
Karchaa said the projectiles were fired near a dry nuclear waste storage facility and a building where fresh spent nuclear fuel is stored, but no radioactive emissions have been detected at this time, according to TASS.
Ukrainian nuclear power firm Energoatom blamed the Russian military for shelling the site and said there were at least 12 hits to the plant’s infrastructure.
It said Russia had targeted the infrastructure needed to restart parts of the plant in an attempt to further curtail Ukraine’s electricity supply.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv and Caleb Davies in Gdansk; Written by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Pravin Char and Frances Carey
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