© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict outside Enerhodar in the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, October 14, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo
By Guy Faulconbridge and Caleb Davis
LONDON (Reuters) – Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is under Russian control, was rocked by shelling on Sunday, drawing criticism from the U.N. nuclear watchdog that said the attack could cause a major nuclear disaster.
More than a dozen explosions rocked Europe’s nuclear power plants on Saturday evening and Sunday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said. Moscow and Kyiv both blamed the other for the bombing.
“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is very disturbing,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi. “There was an explosion at the site of this huge nuclear power plant, which is not legal at all. Whoever is behind this, must stop immediately. As I said before, you are playing with fire!”
Explaining the information provided by the management of the plant, the IAEA team on the ground said that there has been damage to some buildings, systems and equipment at the site, but nothing that is important for nuclear safety and security so far.
Repeated explosions at a factory in southern Ukraine, which Russia seized shortly after its February invasion, have raised concerns about a potential disaster within 500 kilometers (300 miles) of the site of the world’s deadliest nuclear disaster, the 1986 Chornobyl. disaster.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant supplied a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity to Russia before the Feb. 24, and was forced to use multiple recovery generators. It has six Soviet-made VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled and water-controlled engines with 235.
The reactors are shut down but there is a risk that the nuclear fuel could overheat if the power to the cooling system is cut off. Bullets have repeatedly cut power lines.
SIDE SWAP BLAME
Both Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of attacking the plant several times during the war and posing a nuclear threat, and they exchanged blame again on Sunday.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukraine had fired missiles at power plants, while TASS reported that other storage facilities were hit by Ukrainian missiles, citing an official from Russian nuclear power producer Rosenergoatom.
“They not only fired yesterday, but also today, they are throwing bullets right now,” said Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the CEO of Rosenergoatom, adding that any attack on the site could lead to nuclear safety.
Karchaa said the projectiles were fired near a nuclear waste storage facility and a building that houses new nuclear fuel, but no radioactive emissions were found, according to TASS.
Ukraine’s nuclear power company Energoatom blamed the Russian military for shelling the site and said there were at least 12 strikes at industrial facilities.
It also said that Russia had looked into the need to restart parts of the factory in an attempt to reduce Ukraine’s influence.