Ukraine says parts of nuclear plant ‘seriously damaged’ in strikes

Ukraine says parts of nuclear plant ‘seriously damaged’ in strikes

on August 6, 2022

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Smoke rises from the damaged training building of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following an attack with shell fire by Russian forces, in Energodar on March 4, 2022. – Western leaders had expressed horror on March 4, 2022 after the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine was attacked with shell fire and taken over by invading Russian forces. (Photo by Handout / Ukraine National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom / AFP)

KYIV, Ukraine (AFP) — Parts of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were “seriously damaged” by military strikes that forced one of its reactors to shut down, the plant’s operator said on Saturday.

The Friday strikes on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in south Ukraine — Europe’s largest atomic power complex — “seriously damaged” a station containing nitrogen and oxygen and an “auxiliary building,” Energoatom said on the Telegram messaging service.

Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for the attacks.

The strikes had damaged a power cable, forced one of the reactors to stop working and “there are still risks of leaking hydrogen and radioactive substances, and the risk of fire is also high,” it said.

The shelling “has caused a serious risk for the safe operation of the plant.”

Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant since the early days of their invasion and Kyiv has accused them of storing heavy weapons there.

But Moscow, in turn, has accused Ukrainian forces of targeting the plant.

The European Union hit out at Russia on Saturday over the shelling.

“The EU condemns Russia’s military activities around #Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, wrote on Twitter.

“This is a serious and irresponsible breach of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard for international norms.”

Borrell insisted that the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, be given access to the plant.

A general view shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, situated in the Russian-controlled area of Enerhodar, seen from Nikopol in April 27, 2022. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

The IAEA has been trying for weeks to send a team to inspect the plant. Ukraine has so far rejected the efforts, which it says would legitimise Russia’s occupation of the site in the eyes of the international community.

It said employees of Russian nuclear operator Rosatom had left the plant shortly before the attacks but that Ukrainian personnel had stayed on and the plant was still generating electricity.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky had said on Friday that “any bombing of this site is a shameless crime, an act of terror.”

And the Ukrainian foreign ministry had said that the “possible consequences of hitting a working reactor are equivalent to using an atomic bomb”.

Earlier in the week the IAEA said that the situation at the nuclear power plant was “volatile.”

“Every principle of safety has been violated one way or the other,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said.

© Agence France-Presse