Shelling of Ukraine's nuclear plant poses nuke accident risk, says Russia

Russia on Monday said that the shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant posed a nuclear accident threat as it accused Kyiv of the attacks on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

The concerns have been sparked after the plant — located in southern Ukraine, just 500 km from Chernobyl (the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986) — was repeatedly shelled in the past few days. Both the warring countries have blamed each other over the attacks on the plant.

“The plant is at risk of a nuclear accident,” news agency Reuters quoted Alexei Likhachev, the director general of Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear corporation, as telling state-run news agency Interfax. “We were in negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) all night,” he said.

The power plant is under Russian control and became the target of heavy shelling on Saturday and Sunday, prompting a warning from the UN nuclear watchdog which said such attacks risked a major disaster.

A meltdown of a reactor at the plant or a fire of spent nuclear fuel could send a plume of radionuclides into the air, potentially spreading over a large area of ​​Europe.

“This cannot but cause our concern,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to the shelling. “We call on all countries of the world to use their influence so that the Ukrainian armed forces stop doing this.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said damages to a radioactive waste and storage building have been reported, adding that cooling pond sprinkler systems and an electrical cable to one of the reactors were among the other things harmed. External power supplies were not affected and radiation levels at the plant remained normal, the IAEA said.

While Russia said Ukraine’s armed forces fired 11 large caliber shells at the plant on Saturday and 12 on Sunday morning, Ukraine’s nuclear energy firm Energoatom maintained the Russian military shelled the plant.

(With agency inputs)