Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is under Russian control, was rocked by shelling on Sunday, prompting condemnation by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, which said such attacks risk of causing a major nuclear disaster.
More than a dozen explosions rocked Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Saturday and Sunday evening, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said. Moscow and Kiev both blamed each other for the shelling of the facility.
“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is extremely disturbing,” said Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, who was at the scene, saying there had been damage to several buildings, systems and equipment at the factory.
“The explosion that happened at the site of this large nuclear power plant is completely unacceptable. Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before. , you guys are playing with fire!”
Repeated shelling of the factory in southern Ukraine, which Russia took control of shortly after the invasion in February, has raised concerns about the possibility of a serious accident just miles away. The world’s worst nuclear accident, the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, 500 km.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant supplied about one-fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before the Russian invasion on February 24, and has repeatedly been forced to run by backup generators. It has six Soviet-designed water-cooled and water-regulated VVER-1000 V-320 reactors containing Uranium 235.
Danger of overheating
The reactors have been shut down, but there is a risk that the nuclear fuel could overheat if the power to the cooling system is cut off. The shelling has repeatedly cut off power lines.
Both Kiev and Moscow accused each other of attacking the plant multiple times during the conflict and risking a nuclear accident, and they blamed each other again on Sunday.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine fired bullets at the power lines supplying the plant, while TASS reported that some of the region’s storage facilities were shelled by Ukraine, citing an official from the operator. Russian nuclear power Rosenergoatom.
“They’re not just shelling yesterday, they’re shelling today, they’re shelling right now,” said Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the Rosenergoatom CEO. Any artillery entering the site poses a threat to nuclear safety.
No radioactive emissions detected
Karchaa said the shells were fired near a dry nuclear waste storage facility and a new nuclear fuel storage building, but no radioactive emissions have been detected so far, according to TASS.
Ukraine’s nuclear energy company Energoatom accused the Russian military of shelling the site and said at least 12 rounds hit the plant’s infrastructure.
It said that Russia had targeted the infrastructure needed to restart parts of the plant in order to further limit Ukraine’s electricity supply.