- IAEA says Ukrainian factory rocked by 12 explosions
- The factory is controlled by Russian forces
- Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of bombing
- “You are playing with fire! – Head of the IAEA
LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was rocked by shelling on Sunday, prompting condemnation from the UN’s nuclear watchdog, which said such attacks risked cause a major nuclear 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 both accused the other of bombing the facility.
“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is extremely worrying,” said IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, whose team on the ground said some buildings, systems and equipment at the plant had been damaged.
“Explosions have occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is totally unacceptable. Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you are playing with fire!”
Repeated shelling of the factory in southern Ukraine, which Russia took control of shortly after its invasion in February, has raised concerns about the possibility of a serious accident just 500 km (300 miles) away. from the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, Chernobyl in 1986. a disaster.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant provided about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before the February 24 Russian invasion and has been forced to run on backup generators on several occasions. It has six water-cooled, water-moderated VVER-1000 V-320 reactors of Soviet design containing uranium-235.
The reactors are shut down but there is a risk of the nuclear fuel overheating if the power supply to the cooling systems were cut off. The bombings repeatedly cut the power lines.
BLAME SWAP SIDES
Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of repeatedly attacking the plant during the conflict and risking a nuclear accident, and they traded blame again on Sunday.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine fired shells at the power lines feeding the plant, while TASS reported that some of the site’s storage facilities were hit by Ukrainian shelling, citing a senior official. Russian nuclear operator Rosenergoatom.
“They bombed not only yesterday, but also today, they are bombing right now,” said Renat Karchaa, adviser to the CEO of Rosenergoatom, adding that any artillery attack on the site posed a threat to nuclear security.
Karchaa said the shells were fired near a dry nuclear waste storage facility and a building that houses fresh spent nuclear fuel, but no radioactive emissions have currently been detected, according to TASS.
Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom accused the Russian military of bombing the site and said there were at least 12 hits to the plant’s infrastructure.
He said Russia had targeted the infrastructure needed to restart parts of the plant in a bid to further limit Ukraine’s electricity supply.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv and Caleb Davis in Gdansk; Written by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Pravin Char and Frances Kerry
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.