Bombing hits town across river from Russian-occupied nuclear power plant, Ukraine says

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is seen August 4 outside the Russian-controlled town of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine. (Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters/FILE)

The “alarming” situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine has reached a “grave hour”, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Thursday, as he called for an immediate inspection of the facility by international experts.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has warned that parts of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant have been destroyed due to recent attacks, risking “unacceptable” potential radiation leakage. “.

“IAEA experts believe there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety,” but “that could change at any time,” Grossi said.

“Any military action that jeopardizes nuclear safety, nuclear security, must cease immediately,” he added. “These military actions in the vicinity of such an important nuclear facility could have very serious consequences.”

Ukraine and Russia accuse each other: The Zaporizhzhia facility – Europe’s largest nuclear power plant – occupies a large site on the Dnipro River near the Russian-occupied town of Enerhodar. It has continued to operate at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it in early March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work.

So far, Russia and Ukraine have been unwilling to agree to an IAEA inspection of the plant and have accused each other of bombing the facility – an action which the IAEA says violates “the indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security”.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Thursday blamed Ukraine for the bombings and urged supporters in Kyiv to stop the attacks and prevent a disastrous radioactive leak.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pointed the finger at Moscow, which he said was putting all of Europe at risk.

“Only the complete withdrawal of the Russians from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the restoration of Ukraine’s full control over the situation around the plant will guarantee the restoration of nuclear security for all of Europe,” Zelensky said.

More shelling: Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom said 10 shells landed near the complex on Thursday, preventing a shift handover.

“For the safety of nuclear workers, the buses with the personnel of the following team were sent back to Enerhodar,” the agency said. “Until the situation finally normalizes, workers from the previous team will continue to work.”

Energoatom said radiation levels at the site remained normal, despite further attacks.

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