The IAEA will inspect the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant today after heavy shelling

The IAEA will inspect the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant today after heavy shelling

Ukraine narrowly escaped nuclear disaster during weekend fighting that rocked Europe’s largest atomic power plant, controlled by Moscow, with a barrage of projectiles, some of which fell near the reactors and damaged a building storage of radioactive waste, the UN atomic energy authority has warned, as its team prepares to inspect the central plant.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, warned that although this time “we were lucky that a potentially serious nuclear incident did not occur, next time, we may not be so lucky.” Therefore, he asked “to do everything in our power to make sure there is no next time.” Grossi wants a nuclear safety and protection zone around the plant, which is located on Russian-controlled territory in southern Ukraine.

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A Ukrainian soldier signs autographs in the city center of Kherson, yesterday

According to the IAEA, the plant suffered the most intense bombardment in recent months on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, with a dozen explosions lasting 40 minutes each time. “Although there was no direct hit on the key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant, the bombardment came dangerously close to them. We are talking about meters, not kilometers,” Grossi warned on Sunday.

IAEA experts reported “damage at various locations, including a radioactive waste and storage building, cooling pond sprinkler systems, an electrical cable running to one of the reactors, condensate storage tanks, and a bridge between other reactor and its auxiliary buildings”. But external power supplies were not affected and radiation levels at the plant remained normal.

Whoever is behind this needs to stop immediately. They’re playing with fire!”

Rafael GrossiDirector General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The Zaporizhia plant provided a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before the Russian invasion, and has been forced to run on standby generators on several occasions. It has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled and moderated reactors containing uranium-235. The reactors are shut down, but there is a risk of nuclear fuel overheating if power to the nuclear fuel systems is interrupted. refrigeration. Shelling has repeatedly cut power lines.

The UN nuclear authority fears that if bombs continue to fall, a disaster will occur, just 500 kilometers from the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, at Chernobyl in 1986.

“Whoever is behind this must stop immediately. As I have said many times, they are playing with fire!” Grossi said in a statement. Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the bombing of the plant, as they have done repeatedly in recent months following attacks on or near it.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Ukraine fired shells at power lines supplying the plant, from Marhanets in the Dnipropetrovsk region. But the Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom accused the Russian military of being behind the bombings because they were targeting the infrastructure needed to restart parts of the plant in a bid to further limit Ukraine’s power supply.

The Kremlin on Monday shared its concerns over the renewed bombings over the weekend and called on other countries to use their influence to help end the attacks. In a conference call with journalists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, who insisted on the claim that Kyiv was behind the attacks.

The atomic watchdog team is scheduled to inspect the plant on Monday, but Russian nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom, which runs the plant, said there would be restrictions on inspections. “If they want to inspect a facility that has nothing to do with nuclear safety, they will be denied access,” Rosenergoatom’s adviser to CEO Renat Karchaa told the Tass news agency.

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