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

  • The IAEA says the Ukrainian plant was rocked by 12 explosions
  • The plant is controlled by Russian forces
  • Moscow and Kiev accuse others of bombing
  • – Play with fire! – Head of the IAEA

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was hit by bombing on Sunday, drawing condemnation from the U.N. nuclear watchdog who said such attacks they risked 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 Kiev have blamed each other for the bombing of the facility.

“The news from our team yesterday and this morning is extremely disturbing,” said Rafael Grossi, head of the IAEA, whose team on the ground said there was damage to some buildings, systems and equipment at the plant.

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“The explosions occurred 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, you are playing with fire!”

Repeated bombing of the plant in southern Ukraine, which Russia took control of shortly after its February invasion, has raised concerns about the potential for a serious accident just 500 km (300 miles) from the site of the worst nuclear accident in the world, the Chornobyl of 1986. disaster.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant supplied about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before Russia’s February 24 invasion, and has been 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.

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

SIDES SWAP BLAME

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

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

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

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Karchaa said the shells were fired near a dry nuclear waste storage facility and a building housing fresh nuclear fuel, but that no radioactive emissions were detected, according to TASS.

Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom has accused the Russian military of bombing the site and said there were at least 12 strikes on the plant’s infrastructure.

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

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in London, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Caleb Davis in Gdansk; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Edited by Pravin Char and Frances Kerry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.

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