Ukraine accuses Russia of new attack on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

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KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s nuclear energy company warned on Sunday that rocket attacks on the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant risked causing a “nuclear disaster”, with the Russian and Ukrainian governments blaming each other explosions in the facility.

For days experts have warned that heavy fighting around the Zaporizhzhia plant in southeastern Ukraine poses a serious threat, but alleged strikes on Saturday near the used fuel storage facility of the factory caused even more concern.

“It’s especially dangerous because these buildings are not constructed with the same type of reinforced concrete as the reactor containment building,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “These places were not designed as fortresses against external missile or artillery strikes.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a ‘stronger response from the international community’ following the attacks and said he had spoken with Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, to seek new sanctions against the industry Moscow nuclear. He accused the Kremlin of carrying out “nuclear terror”.

The Russian-installed local government of Enerhodar, where the plant is located, accused Ukraine of hitting the facility using a 220mm Uragan multiple rocket launcher system.

“The administrative buildings and the adjacent territory of the storage facility have been damaged,” he said in a statement given to Interfax news.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said the situation posed a serious threat to public health and the environment in Ukraine and far beyond its borders.

On Sunday, he asked to be allowed to visit the site with a team of nuclear experts. “We can put together a safety, security and safeguard mission and provide the much-needed assistance and impartial assessment that is needed,” he said in a statement.

But the likelihood of an immediate visit seems remote as fighting intensifies in the disputed area.

The bombing also damaged the facility’s radiation monitoring sensors and injured at least one worker, Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom said.

“This time, a nuclear disaster has been miraculously averted, but miracles cannot last forever,” the company said in a statement on Sunday.

At least 174 containers of spent nuclear fuel are stored at the site, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. According to Energoatom, the Russian troops were “specifically targeting” the containers.

The Zaporizhzhia plant has been under Russian control since March, but is run by Ukrainian workers.

The company said damage to the facility’s technology meant that “rapid detection and response in the event of a deterioration of the radiological situation or radiation leakage from spent nuclear fuel containers is not yet possible,” it said. she declared.

Russia initially seized the facility after one of its projectiles sparked a fire at the plant complex, sparking concerns over the safety of Ukraine’s four nuclear sites that continued in the months that followed. .

The ongoing fighting has no precedent in military history, experts said.

“This is the first time in the history of the nuclear age that a major nuclear power plant has been for an extended period in the midst of an active war zone,” Kimball said.

He warned that the loss of electricity at the plant was also a significant threat. “Each of these plants has a number of days that they have backup diesel power generation,” he said.

Zelensky cited the attack on Zaporizhzhia on Friday as another reason why Moscow should be recognized as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, something he has repeatedly called for since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

The Russian Defense Ministry in turn said that the protection of Russian-backed forces was the reason the plant was not damaged further.

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Hassan reported from London. Praveena Somasundaram in Washington contributed to this report.

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