Zaporozhye nuclear power plant hit by Russian strikes

Parts of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant were “severely damaged” in military strikes that shut down one of its reactors, the station’s operator said Saturday.

Friday’s strikes on the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine – Europe’s largest nuclear power complex – “severely damaged” the nitrogen and oxygen plant and “ancillary building,” Energoatom said on the Telegram messaging service.

Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for the attacks.

War in Ukraine: air strikes on Zaporozhye

Fire hazard remains high

strikes damaged a power cable, forced one of the reactors to shut down and “risks of leakage of hydrogen and radioactive substances remain, as well as a high risk of fire,” Energoatom said in a statement.

The shelling “created a serious threat to the safe operation of the plant.”

Russian troops occupied Zaporozhye plant from the first days of their invasion, and Kyiv accused them of storing heavy weapons there.

See: Zaporozhye NPP

Moscow blamed Ukrainian forces for the attack on the plant.

On Saturday, the European Union hit Russia with shelling.

“The EU condemns Russia’s military activities around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant,” Josep Borrell, a senior EU diplomat, tweeted.

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

Borrell pushed for the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees the UN’s nuclear activities, to gain access to the station.

“Alarm Messages”

The UN nuclear monitor also expressed dismay in a statement on Saturday.

The strikes were “the latest in a long line of increasingly troubling reports,” said Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).IAEA).

They stressed “a very real risk of a nuclear catastrophe that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond.”

He added that “military action endangering the safety and security” of the station is “completely unacceptable and should be avoided at all costs”.

Zaporozhye NPP Ukraine
A Russian soldier guards the area near Unit 2 of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in Energodar on May 1, 2022. Photo: AFP/Andrey Borodulin

The IAEA has been trying for weeks to send a team to inspect the plant. Ukraine has so far rejected efforts that it says would legitimize Russian occupation of the site in the eyes of the international community.

It says that employees of the Russian nuclear company Rosatom left the station shortly before the attacks, but Ukrainian personnel remained and the station was still generating electricity.

“Atomic bomb” in Ukraine

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that “any explosion of this facility is an unscrupulous crime, an act of terror.”

And the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that “the possible consequences of the destruction of a working reactor are equivalent to the use of an atomic bomb.”

Earlier this week, the IAEA described the situation at nuclear power plant as “volatile”.

“Every safety principle has been violated in one way or another,” Grossi said.