International vigilance against shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear facility increased as Kyiv and Moscow exchanged responsibility for the attack.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called any attack on a nuclear power plant a “suicidal act” and called on UN nuclear inspectors on Monday to allow access.
The largest complex of its kind in Europe, Zaporizhia, located in the southern region, was seized by Russian invaders in March and was attacked without damage to its reactors. The region is now being targeted by a Ukrainian counterattack.
Kyiv called for the demilitarization of the area around the plant and the access of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
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Russia’s foreign ministry said it supported the IAEA visit, accusing Ukraine of blocking the visit because it was “trying to take Europe hostage” by shelling the plant.
Ukraine blames Russia for the weekend’s attacks around the complex, which is still run by Ukrainian engineers. It said three radiation sensors were damaged and two workers were injured by shrapnel.
Reuters was unable to confirm either side’s version of what happened.
Petro Kotin, president of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear energy company Energoatom, called for peacekeeping forces to be stationed and operated at the Zaporizhia base and to return operational control to Ukraine.
He pointed out the risk of a cannonball hitting a container of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. If two or more were damaged, it was “impossible to assess the scale” of the resulting disaster.
“Such erratic behavior could cause the situation to spiral out of control, and it could be Fukushima or Chernobyl,” Cotin said.
Dr Mark Wenman, a nuclear expert at Imperial College London, downplayed the risk of a serious accident, saying Zaporizhia’s reactors were relatively robust and the spent fuel was well protected.
“It may seem worrying and fighting at nuclear facilities is illegal…the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still small,” he said in a statement.
Ukraine’s IAEA Ambassador to the IAEA Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk said Zaporizhzhia staff “worked under the barrel of Russian guns”. He called for a UN-led mission to the Soviet-era factory this month.
Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry said the Ukrainian attack had damaged power lines feeding the power plant, forcing it to cut power at two of its six reactors to “prevent disruption”. Stated.
The UN’s Guterres said IAEA officials needed access to “create the conditions for stabilization”.
“Any attack on a nuclear power plant is a suicidal act,” he said at a press conference in Japan, attending Saturday’s Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony to mark the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
In 1986, a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl complex in northwestern Ukraine exploded, creating the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. Shortly after his February 24 invasion of this year, Russian forces occupied the site and withdrew in late March.
Ukraine says it is planning a major counterattack in the Russian-occupied south, apparently focused on the city of Kherson, west of Zaporizhia, and has already recaptured dozens of villages.
In Washington, the Pentagon stepped up its military aid commitments to Ukraine, pledging $1 billion in additional security assistance, including long-range weapons ammunition.
Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry told the US it was suspending inspection activities under the START nuclear arms control treaty, but said Russia remained committed to the treaty’s provisions.
Adding weight to a rare diplomatic success since the war began, the deal to unblock Ukrainian food exports and alleviate global shortages will see two ships carrying about 59,000 tons of corn and soybeans. Grain ships picked up the pace when they set sail from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
This brings the total to 12 since the first ship left a week ago.
Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for almost one-third of world wheat exports.
Warning Against Ukraine Power Plant Attack
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