IAEA warns of ‘nuclear catastrophe’ after shelling of Zaporizhia reactor

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The UN nuclear chief has warned of a possible “nuclear catastrophe” after a shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, urging Russia and Ukraine again to allow experts access to a mission.

The shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine highlights the potential for “catastrophic consequences” of attacks on and near nuclear power plants, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general Raphael Grozy said. Report on Saturday.

“Military action affecting the safety and security of the Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs,” Grossi’s statement said.

After Friday’s shelling, Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the attack. The facility, near the front lines of the fighting, has been under Russian control since March but is still staffed by Ukrainians.

In his night address On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cited the shelling of Zaporizhia as another reason why Russia should be recognized as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

Zelensky also advocated sanctions against Russia’s nuclear industry.

“It’s purely a safety thing,” he said. “Anyone who poses nuclear threats to other countries certainly cannot use nuclear technologies safely.”

In turn, Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the attack, saying a defense plant by Russian-backed forces was not heavily damaged. Shelling damaged two power lines and a water pipe, leaving more than 10,000 residents without water and electricity, according to a Defense Ministry statement.

Russia first seized the facility after one of its missiles caused a fire at the plant’s premises, prompting concerns about the safety of Ukraine’s four nuclear sites.

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“Ukrainian employees operating a plant under Russian occupation must fulfill their core duties without threats or pressure that undermines not only their own safety, but also comfort,” Grassi said in his statement.

The American Atomic Energy Association (ANS) condemned the shelling in a statement on Saturday and backed Croci’s calls to end attacks on the facility and send a mission there.

“It is unfair for a civilian nuclear facility to be used as a military base or targeted in a military operation,” said Steven Arndt, the organization’s president, and Craig Piercy, chief executive.

Friday’s shelling Zaporizhzhia six reactors did not have any damage and did not release radioactive materials into the environment, according to Grossi, but the plant was damaged elsewhere.

He added that the IAEA mission to the nuclear plant would allow inspectors to assess it and gather information independently of reports from Ukraine and Russia.

But the situation around Zaporizhia is likely to grow more, not less dangerous, according to the British Ministry of Defence, as heavy fighting shifts in the direction of the power plant.

The IAEA has been working for months to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear sites. In April, Gross led a mission to the country’s Chernobyl plant – the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters in 1986 – after Russian-backed forces withdrew from it in March.

He led a follow-up mission to the site in early June with experts who assessed its condition and provided training on radiation monitoring equipment. A mission like Zaporizhzhia’s, Grossi said, is “vital” to its preservation.

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“But this will require the cooperation, understanding and facilitation of both Ukraine and Russia,” he said, adding that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres supported the company’s plan.

Croci attended the Review Conference of the Tenth Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in New York on Monday. In his keynote address, he referred to the IAEA’s “Seven pillars” nuclear safety and security, which includes the physical integrity of facilities, reliable communication with regulators, and the ability of personnel to work safely.

Those pillars were breached in Zaporizhia — during Friday’s shelling and in the months following Russia’s invasion, Krosi said in his statement.

“We can’t lose any more time,” he said. “To protect the people of Ukraine and elsewhere from nuclear disaster, we must all put aside our differences and act now.”

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