IAEA head denounces madness of shelling of Ukraine nuclear plant

A team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts are set to assess the impact of recent shelling on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Ukraine narrowly escaped disaster during fighting at the weekend as Europe’s largest atomic power plant was hit with a barrage of shells, some falling near reactors and damaging a radioactive waste storage building, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

It was not clear which side was responsible for the explosions at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which has been under Russian control since soon after it invaded Ukraine earlier this year.

The seriousness of the situation was made clear by the head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, (pic)  who denounced the “madness” of the weekend’s attacks, and warned Russia and Ukraine that they were “playing with fire”.

Grossi denounced the “targeted” strikes in a statement, which noted that repeated shelling at the site of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant damaged buildings, systems and equipment, with some of the explosions occurring near the reactors.

The IAEA added that radiation levels at the site remained normal and there were no reports of casualties. The plant’s external power supplies, which have been knocked out several times during the conflict, were also not affected.

According to the IAEA experts, site management reported damage in several places, including a radioactive waste and storage building, cooling pond sprinkler systems, an electrical cable to one of the reactors, condensate storage tanks, and to a bridge between another reactor and its auxiliary buildings.

“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,” Grossi said, reiterating his call for urgent measures to protect the plant and prevent a nuclear accident during the current conflict in Ukraine.

Grossi said he has been in active consultations with world leaders on the latest shelling at the plant, and he is insisting that agreeing and implementing a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the plant must happen now.

“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 said.