Ukraine war: IAEA says Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant out of control

Image credit: Reuters

The head of the UN’s nuclear organisation claims that a sizable nuclear power facility that Russia commandeered during its invasion of Ukraine is “totally out of control.”

The Associated Press news agency quoted Rafael Grossi as saying that the Zaporizhzhia plant required an assessment and maintenance.

The largest nuclear reactor in Europe is perilously close to the conflict.

Russia was charged earlier this week by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with using the plant, which it seized in March, as a military base to strike Ukrainian forces.

Russian personnel are stationed and military hardware is stored on the grounds of the power plant on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

However, a Russian-installed official in the area informed Reuters that Ukrainian soldiers were attacking the plant with weapons from the West.

According to Yevgeny Balitsky, officials were prepared to demonstrate to Mr Grossi’s organisation, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), how Russians were defending the nuclear site while Ukrainians were purportedly attacking it.

The director-general of the IAEA stated that he was attempting to put together a trip as soon as possible to inspect the plant, but due to the risks associated with entering a conflict zone, this required the consent of both the Russian and Ukrainian sides as well as UN authorization.

Ukraine’s state nuclear enterprise claimed in June that the IAEA had not been invited and that any visit would validate Russia’s presence there.

This week, Mr Grossi claimed that for him and his team to reach Zaporizhzhia, protection was required, which required both Russia’s and Ukraine’s cooperation.

Of course, the Ukrainians cannot fire back lest there be a tragic disaster with the nuclear plant, Mr Blinken said, accusing the Russians of using the reactor as a “nuclear shield.”

When a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded in 1986, northern Ukraine became the scene of the biggest nuclear tragedy in history.

Chernobyl was also taken by Russian forces shortly after the invasion on February 24 of this year, but they left after five weeks. The site’s computers were stolen or damaged, but the decommissioned plant’s nuclear machinery was unaffected.

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