Ukraine nuclear plant shelled, U.N. warns: ‘You’re playing with fire!’

  • The IAEA reports that 12 explosions rocked the Ukrainian plant
  • The factory is controlled by Russian forces
  • Moscow and Kyiv blame others for the shooting
  • ‘You’re playing with fire!’ – Head of the IAEA

LONDON, November 20 (Reuters). Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant was rocked by gunfire on Sunday, prompting condemnation from the UN nuclear watchdog, which said such attacks could trigger 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 blamed each other for the shooting at the facility.

“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is extremely worrying,” said IAEA chief Rafael Grossi. “There were explosions at the site of this large nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable. Whoever is behind this must be stopped immediately. As I have said many times, you are playing with fire!”

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Citing information provided by the plant’s management, the IAEA team on site said that some buildings, systems and equipment have been damaged at the facility, but none of which has so far been critical to nuclear safety and security.

Repeated gunfire at a plant in southern Ukraine, which Russia took control of shortly after the February invasion, has raised fears of a major accident just 500 km (300 miles) from the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, Chernobyl in 1986. disaster.

The Zaporozhye nuclear power plant provided about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before the Russian invasion on February 24, and has been forced to operate on backup generators several times. It has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled and water-regulated reactors containing uranium-235.

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The reactors are shut down, but there is a risk that the fuel could overheat if the cooling systems are cut off. Shelling has broken power lines several times.

SIDE SHIFT FAULT

Both Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other repeatedly during the conflict of attacking the power plant and risking a nuclear accident, and they traded blame again on Sunday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukraine fired on power lines supplying the power plant, while TASS reported that Ukrainian shelling hit some of the site’s storage facilities, citing an official at Russian nuclear operator Rosenergoatom.

“They fired not only yesterday, but also today, they fired right now,” said Renat Karča, adviser to Rosenergoatom’s CEO, adding that any artillery attack on the facility threatens nuclear safety.

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Karcha said the projectiles were fired near the dry nuclear waste storage facility and the building that houses the freshly spent nuclear fuel, but no radioactive emissions have been detected at this time, TASS reported.

Ukrainian nuclear company Energoatom accused the Russian military of shelling the site and said at least 12 strikes had hit the nuclear plant’s infrastructure.

It said Russia had targeted infrastructure needed to restart parts of the plant in an attempt to further limit Ukraine’s electricity supply.

Reports from Guy Faulconbridge in London, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv and Caleb Davies in Gdansk; Written by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Pravin Char and Frances Carey

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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