Ukraine says a worker was injured and radiation sensors damaged by the Russian bombing of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, after the head of a nuclear energy watchdog United Nations said the fighting around the plant posed a “very real risk of nuclear catastrophe”.
Moscow in turn accused Ukrainian forces of firing on the Enerhodar power station, which is run by local personnel supervised by Russian troops who seized the area around the plant in the partially occupied region of Zaporizhzhia , in the south-east of Ukraine.
International concern over the site grew as heavy shelling and fighting continued in eastern and southern Ukraine, and four more ships carrying grain left the Black Sea coast in the part of a deal to end a five-month Russian blockade of its ports.
“The Russian occupiers again fired rockets at the site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and at the town of Enerhodar. They hit the site … right next to the spent fuel dry storage facility,” Ukraine’s atomic energy agency Energoatom said on Sunday.
“Three radiation monitoring sensors (…) have been damaged. Therefore, rapid detection and response in the event of a deterioration of the radiological situation or leakage of radiation from containers of spent nuclear fuel is not possible” , the agency added, noting that an employee had been taken to hospital with injuries caused by shrapnel.
“This time, a nuclear disaster has been miraculously averted, but miracles cannot last forever…Therefore, we once again stress the need for the urgent withdrawal of armed Russian troops from the site…and the creation of a demilitarized zone.”
Technicians at the plant disconnected one of its six reactors from the Ukrainian power grid after bombing damaged power lines on Friday, in an incident Russia and Ukraine blamed each other.
Ukrainian officials say Russian forces use the turbine halls of two reactors to store military vehicles, weapons and ammunition, and have mined areas of the facility.
Russia says Ukraine is bombing the plant, and Moscow-based officials at Enerhodar have warned that any major damage would likely spew radiation onto government-controlled parts of the country, including western Ukraine.” and then the whole continent will suffer.”
“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, Director General of the UN. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Saturday.
“Military action jeopardizing the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs. Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would be tantamount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Mr Grossi said he wanted to lead an IAEA mission to the plant, which “would play a crucial role in helping to stabilize the nuclear safety and security situation there, as we have done at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and elsewhere in Ukraine in recent months where we have also delivered urgently needed nuclear safety and security equipment”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he spoke with EU Council President Charles Michel on Sunday “about the situation on the battlefield, in particular in Zaporizhzhia”. [power station]. Russian nuclear terrorism demands a stronger response from the international community – sanctions against the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel.
Four other ships carrying a total of nearly 170,000 tons of grain and other foodstuffs left ports in southern Ukraine on Sunday, as part of a UN-brokered deal with Turkey to end to the Russian blockade; four more ships left last week, including one bound for Ringaskiddy.
“The threat of Russian provocations and acts of terrorism remains. Everyone should be aware of that,” Mr. Zelenskiy said. “But if our partners fulfill their part of the commitment and guarantee the security of supplies, this will really solve the world food crisis.”