Top Russian official warns of possible nuclear accident at Zaporizhzhia


Shelling around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, has sparked fears of a nuclear disaster – Copyright AFP Arif ALI

A top Russian official warned on Monday there was a risk of a nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, following renewed shelling over the weekend.

Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations over who is responsible for the shelling for months since Russian forces took control of it in March, shortly after invading Ukraine, according to US News.

On Sunday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has experts based at Zaporizhzhia, reported more than a dozen blasts from apparent shelling, with damage to some buildings, systems and equipment, but “none so far critical for nuclear safety.”

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has six Soviet-designed VVER-1000 V-320 water-cooled and water-moderated reactors containing Uranium 235, which has a half-life of more than 700 million years.

On Sunday, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, made an urgent appeal for a stop to the fighting in and around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

“Explosions occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable. Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!”

Russia’s response to the shelling

“The plant is at risk of a nuclear accident,” Alexei Likhachev, the director general of Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear corporation, was quoted as saying by Interfax, reports CTV News Canada.

“We were in negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) all night,” he said.

Even though the reactors are not operating, there is still a risk that nuclear fuel could overheat if the power that drives the cooling systems was to be cut. Shelling has repeatedly cut power lines.

“This cannot but cause our concern,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to the shelling. “We call on all countries of the world to use their influence so that the Ukrainian armed forces stop doing this.”

But the “blame game” goes on, with Ukraine’s nuclear energy firm Energoatom saying the Russian military shelled the plant. It said there had been at least 12 hits on the facility on Sunday.

Russia’s defense ministry said Ukraine’s armed forces fired 11 large caliber shells at the plant on Saturday and 12 on Sunday morning, then two more at power lines.

Which story is true?

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Top Russian official warns of possible nuclear accident at Zaporizhzhia
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