Ukrainian nuclear power plant under fire, UN warns: “You are playing with fire!”

  • The IAEA says 12 explosions rocked the Ukrainian power plant
  • The plant is under the control of Russian forces
  • Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of shelling
  • “You’re playing with fire!” – Head of the IAEA

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Shelling rocked Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant on Sunday, prompting condemnation from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which said such attacks could cause 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 accuse the other of shelling the facility.

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

Citing information provided by the plant’s management, the IAEA team at the site said there was damage to some buildings, systems and equipment at the site, but none of them are yet critical to nuclear safety and security.

Repeated shelling of a power plant in southern Ukraine, which Russia seized 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 disaster, Chernobyl in 1986. disaster.

The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant provided about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before Russia’s February 24 invasion and was forced to operate with backup generators several times. It has six Soviet VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled and water-moderated reactors containing uranium 235.

The reactors are shut down, but there is a risk that the nuclear fuel could overheat if the power that drives the cooling systems is cut. Shelling repeatedly cut power lines.

PARTIES Swap BLAME

Both Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of attacking the power plant several times during the conflict, risking a nuclear meltdown, and swapped blame again on Sunday.

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

“They shelled not only yesterday, but today, they are shelling right now,” said adviser to Rosenergoatom CEO Renat Karchaa, adding that any artillery attack on the site poses a threat to nuclear safety.

Karchaa said shells were fired near a dry nuclear waste storage facility and a building housing fresh spent nuclear fuel, but no radioactive emissions have been detected so far, according to TASS.

Ukrainian nuclear power firm Energoatom has accused the Russian military of shelling the site and said there were at least 12 hits to the plant’s infrastructure.

It said Russia had targeted the infrastructure needed to restart parts of the plant in an effort to further cut electricity supplies to Ukraine.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv and Caleb Davis in GdaƄsk; Written by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Pravin Char and Frances Kerry

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