Parts of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were “severely damaged” by military strikes that forced one of its reactors to shut down, the plant’s operator said on Saturday.
Friday’s strikes on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine – Europe’s largest nuclear complex – ‘seriously damaged’ a plant 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 an electrical cable, forced one of the reactors to stop working and “there is always a risk of hydrogen and radioactive substances leaking, and the risk of fire is also high”, he said. declared Energoatom.
The bombardment had “caused a serious risk to the safe operation of the plant”.
Russian troops have occupied the factory in Zaporizhzhia since the first days of their invasion and Kyiv has accused them of storing heavy weapons there.
Moscow accused Ukrainian forces of targeting the plant.
The European Union hit out at Russia on Saturday over the bombings.
“The EU condemns Russia’s military activities around the #Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, wrote on Twitter.
“This is a serious and irresponsible violation of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard for international standards.”
Borrell insisted that the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, have access to the plant.
– ‘Alarming reports’ –
The UN nuclear watchdog also expressed concern in a statement on Saturday.
The strikes represented “the latest in a long series of increasingly alarming reports”, said Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
They underlined “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster which could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond”.
He added that “military action jeopardizing the safety and security” of the plant was “completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs”.
The IAEA has been trying for weeks to send a team to inspect the plant. Ukraine has so far rejected such efforts, which it says would legitimize the Russian occupation of the site in the eyes of the international community.
He said employees of Russian nuclear operator Rosatom left the plant shortly before the attacks, but Ukrainian staff remained and the plant was still producing electricity.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that “any bombing of this site is a shameless crime, an act of terror”.
And the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had declared that “the possible consequences of an impact on a working reactor are equivalent to the use of an atomic bomb”.
Earlier in the week, the IAEA described the situation at the nuclear power plant as “volatile”.
“Every security principle has been violated in one way or another,” Grossi said.