The head of the UN atomic agency warned on Saturday of the “very real risk of a nuclear catastrophe” due to the bombing of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for Friday’s bombing in Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear facility, with both sides calling it an act of terror.
“I am extremely concerned by yesterday’s bombing of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which underscores the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, the UN chief. International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement Saturday.
“Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would be tantamount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences,” Grossi added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces fired twice at the facility. The attack amounted to “an open and shameless crime, an act of terror”, he said.
The Russian Defense Ministry blamed Kyiv for three artillery strikes hitting the factory area, calling them “acts of nuclear terrorism”.
“According to Ukraine, there was no damage to the reactors themselves and no radiological releases,” Grossi said. “However, there is damage elsewhere on the site.”
Grossi reiterated his call for a team of IAEA experts to visit the Zaporizhzhia site, to provide “unbiased and independent information on the status” of the facility.
“Ukrainian personnel operating the plant under Russian occupation must be able to carry out their important duties without threats or pressures that compromise not only their own safety but also that of the facility itself,” Grossi said. .
Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko rejected a possible visit by the IAEA to the plant as long as it is under Russian control, as it has been since March.
Day-to-day operations of the facility remain in the hands of Ukrainian workers, while personnel from Rosatom, the Russian nuclear operator, are also on site.