The UN nuclear chief has called for an end to attacks on the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine.
Rafael Grossi warned on Thursday that “very alarming” military activity at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant could have dangerous consequences for the region.
Rafael Grossi has urged Russia and Ukraine, who blame each other for attacks on the plant, to immediately allow nuclear experts to assess the damage and assess safety and security at the sprawling nuclear complex where the situation is “deteriorating very quickly”.
He pointed to shelling and several explosions in Zaporizhzhia last Friday that shut down the power supply transformer and two backup transformers, forcing the shutdown of a nuclear reactor.
Last week Mr Grossi said in an interview with The Associated Press that the situation in Zaporizhzhia was “completely out of control”.
On Thursday, he demanded a halt to military actions “that have even the smallest potential to compromise nuclear security” at such an important facility.
While a preliminary assessment by experts found “no immediate threat to the nuclear safety” of the plant from bombing and military actions, he warned that “that could change at any time”.
Grossi’s call echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call on Thursday for an end to all military activity around the Zaporizhzhia plant, warning that any damage could lead to “catastrophic consequences” in the surroundings, the region and beyond.
Mr. Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), gave a virtual briefing to the UN Security Council during a meeting called by Russia to discuss what Moscow claims is Ukrainian attacks on the plant.
While the plant is controlled by Russia, its Ukrainian staff continue to direct nuclear operations. It’s in Enerhodar, a town seized by Russian troops in early March shortly after invading Ukraine.
Grossi said statements received from Russia and Ukraine “are frequently contradicted” and that the IAEA cannot corroborate important facts unless its experts travel to Zaporizhzhia.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council that “Kyiv’s criminal attacks on nuclear infrastructure are pushing the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.”
He accused the Ukrainian Armed Forces in recent days of repeatedly using heavy artillery and multiple rocket launchers to shell the Zaporizhzhia plant, including on Thursday.
“Background radiation at the nuclear power plant is currently within limits, but if the strikes continue, it’s only a matter of time,” Nebenzia warned.
“We call on states that support the Kyiv regime to defeat their proxies to compel them to immediately and once and for all stop the attacks.”
Ukraine’s UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Russia of using “elaborate plans of deception, sabotage and concealment” to stage the bombing of Zaporizhzhia, including on Thursday, which represents “a unprecedented threat to the nuclear security of Ukraine, Europe and the world as a whole”.
The Ukrainian state company operating the plant, Enerhoatom, said there were renewed Russian bombardments of the Zaporizhzhia facility and nearby buildings on Thursday.
“Five (hits) were recorded near the plant management office – right next to the welding site and the radiation source storage facility,” Enerhoatom said in a post on its official Telegram channel. .
“The grass caught fire in a small area, but luckily no one was injured.”
The Ukrainian ambassador told the council that the only way to eliminate nuclear threats was to withdraw Russian troops and return the plant to Ukrainian control.