Russia takes control of the largest nuclear plant in Ukraine: what does it imply? 8:17 (CNN) — Ukraine on Sunday accused Russian forces of launching rockets at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in the south of the country, further raising fears of an accident, a day after the UN watchdog warned that fighting in the occupied compound risked causing a “nuclear disaster”. It was the second time in as many days that the plant, which is the largest of its kind in Europe, was attacked. Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for both attacks. The rockets fired on Saturday night struck near a dry storage facility, where 174 barrels of spent nuclear fuel are kept, according to Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company. The explosions blew out windows in parts of the plant and one worker was hospitalized with shrapnel injuries. “Apparently, they specifically targeted containers with processed fuel, which are stored outside next to the bombing site,” the company said in a statement on Telegram. Three radiation monitoring detectors were also damaged on Saturday, making “detection and timely response in the event of a worsening radiation situation or radiation leakage from spent nuclear fuel containers currently impossible,” Energoatom said. “This time a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously averted, but miracles cannot last forever,” he added. Kyiv accused Russian forces of stockpiling heavy weapons and launching attacks from the plant, which they seized in early March and still occupy. Moscow, for its part, claimed that Ukrainian troops are targeting the complex. The head of the pro-Russian regional administration in Zaporizhia, Yevgeny Balitsky, said in a statement on Telegram on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had attacked the spent fuel storage area and damaged administrative buildings. Fears of nuclear disaster mount Fears over the safety of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant have been growing since Russian forces took over the site, but they reached a turning point on Friday when shelling damaged a high-voltage power line and forced stopping the operation of one of the plant’s reactors, despite the fact that no radioactive leak was detected. Following the attack, Energoatom said that Russian shell fire had damaged a nitrogen-oxygen station and the combined auxiliary building, and “there are still risks of hydrogen leakage and splashes of radioactive substances, and the risk of fire as well.” is high”. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, was alarmed by reports of damage and has demanded that a team of IAEA experts be urgently allowed to visit the plant, to assess and safeguard the site. . “I am extremely concerned about yesterday’s bombing of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which highlights the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond,” Grossi said in a statement. statement this Saturday. “A military action that endangers the safety of the Zaporizhia NPP is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs,” he added. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has accused Russia of using the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant to sow terror in Europe, said on Sunday that he had spoken with European Council President Charles Michel about the situation at the complex. . “Russian nuclear terror requires a stronger response from the international community: sanctions on the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel,” Zelensky tweeted. CNN was unable to verify claims about damage to the plant, located on the banks of the Dnipro River. The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the bombing. Is Putin capable of using Russia’s nuclear power? 1:10 Irresponsible violation of nuclear safety standards The top diplomat of the European Union criticized Russia’s military activities around the Zaporizhia plant and asked the IAEA to access the complex. “This is a serious and irresponsible violation of nuclear safety standards and another example of Russia’s disregard for international norms,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said on Twitter on Saturday. Several Western and Ukrainian officials believe Russia is now using the massive nuclear facility as a bulwark to shield its troops and stage attacks, assuming Kyiv will not return fire and risk a crisis. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of using the plant to shield its forces, while the British Ministry of Defense claimed in a recent security assessment that Russia’s actions at the complex sabotage the security of its operations. The Ukrainian mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said in late July that Russian forces had been observed using heavy weapons near the plant because “they know very well that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will not respond to these attacks, as they can damage the nuclear plant”. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry warned on Friday that new attacks on the plant could be disastrous. “The possible consequences of hitting a working reactor are equivalent to using an atomic bomb,” the ministry said on Twitter. Grossi called on all parties to “exercise the utmost restraint in the vicinity of this important nuclear facility, with its six reactors.” “Ukrainian personnel operating the plant under Russian occupation must be able to carry out their important functions without threats and pressures that undermine not only their own security, but also that of the facility itself,” he added. The IAEA has been trying to coordinate a mission of safeguards experts to visit the plant since it was taken over by Russian forces. “This mission would play a crucial role in helping to stabilize the nuclear safety and security situation there, as we have done at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and elsewhere in Ukraine in recent months,” he said. The IAEA dispatched teams to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in late April and May to deliver equipment and conduct radiological assessments of the site, which was held by Russian forces for more than a month before they withdrew at the end of March. CNN’s Mariya Knight, Vasco Cotovio and Tim Lister contributed to this report.
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