Russian shelling leads to ‘12 hits’ at Ukraine’s biggest nuclear plant operator says

Photoshopped image released by Energoatom depicts a Russian soldier guarding the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. The ZNPP has been occupied by Russian forces since March but is still run by Ukrainian staff (Energoatom)
Russian shelling over Saturday and Sunday resulted in 12 direct hits on structures at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), Ukraine’s nuclear power company Energoatom said yesterday.

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who are embedded with Ukrainian staff at the Russian occupied plant, reported damage to a radioactive waste storage building, a walkway bridge between a reactor and its auxiliary buildings, and cooling pond sprinkler systems.

The IAEA said radiation levels at the site remained normal and there were no reports of casualties.

It said shelling began around 6pm local time Saturday and, after a lull, resumed at 9:15am Sunday “with more than a dozen blasts within 40 minutes”.

IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi called it another “close call” for Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, now located in the middle of a war zone.

Energoatom accused Russia of “nuclear blackmail”, saying “the attackers aimed at and disabled precisely the infrastructure that was necessary for the start-up of power units 5 and 6 and the restoration of electricity production by the Zaporizhzhya NPP for the needs of Ukraine”.

Russia claimed the shelling came from the Ukrainian army, which Kyiv denied.

“Once again, we were fortunate that a potentially serious nuclear incident did not happen. Next time, we may not be so lucky. We must do everything in our power to make sure there is no next time,” said Grossi, who has called repeatedly for the area around ZNPP to be demilitarised.

“Even though there was no direct impact on key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant, the shelling came dangerously close to them. We are talking metres, not kilometres. Whoever is shelling at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, is taking huge risks and gambling with many people’s lives,” Grossi added.

The IAEA experts planed to conduct a fuller damage assessment today.

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