International concern over the weekend’s shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex mounted yesterday as Kyiv and Moscow swapped blame for the attacks while trying to assuage fears their battle for control of the power plant could trigger a disaster.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called any attack on a nuclear power plant a “suicidal affair” and called for UN nuclear inspectors to be given access.
Zaporizhzhia, the largest complex of its kind in Europe, is in a southern region captured by Russian invaders in March when it was hit without damage to its reactors. The area is now targeted by Ukraine for a counteroffensive.
Kyiv called for the area around the power plant to be demilitarized and for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear regulatory agency, to be included. Taking Europe hostage” by shelling the facility.
Ukraine blamed Russia for weekend attacks around the complex, which is still operated by Ukrainian technicians.
Three radiation sensors were said to have been damaged and two workers injured by shrapnel.
Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom, called for peacekeeping forces to be deployed at the Zaporizhzhia site and its operation, with operational control returned to Ukraine.
He pointed out the danger that shells could hit containers with highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. If two or more broke, it was “impossible to estimate the magnitude” of the resulting disaster.
“Such crazy actions could cause the situation to spiral out of control and become a Fukushima or Chernobyl,” Kotin said.
The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said Ukrainian attacks damaged power lines that supply the plant
dr Mark Wenman, a nuclear expert at Imperial College London, downplayed the risk of a major accident, saying Zaporizhia’s reactors are relatively robust and the spent fuel is well protected.
“While it may seem worrisome and any combat at a nuclear site would be illegal… the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still remote,” he said.
Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Ambassador of Ukraine to the IAEA, said Zaporizhia’s staff “worked under the barrels of Russian cannons”.
He called for a UN-led mission to the Soviet-era plant this month.
Russia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said Ukrainian attacks damaged power lines feeding the power plant and forced it to reduce the output of two of its six reactors to “prevent malfunctions”.
The UN’s Guterres said IAEA personnel needed access to “create conditions for stabilization”.
“Any attack (on) a nuclear power plant is a suicidal thing,” he said at a news conference in Japan, where on Saturday he attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony commemorating the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
The world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 when a reactor at the Chernobyl complex in north-western Ukraine exploded.
Shortly after this year’s invasion of February 24, Russian troops occupied this place and withdrew at the end of March.
Ukraine has announced it will launch a major counter-offensive in the Russian-held south, apparently centered on the city of Kherson west of Zaporizhia, and has already recaptured dozens of villages.
In Washington, the Pentagon increased its military assistance commitments to Ukraine and pledged an additional $1 billion (€980 million) in security assistance, including ammunition for long-range weapons.
Russia’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, told the US it was suspending inspections under its START nuclear arms control treaty, although it said Moscow remains committed to the treaty’s terms.
A deal to unblock Ukraine’s food exports and ease global shortages, giving weight to a rare diplomatic success since the start of the war, picked up steam as two grain ships carrying nearly 59,000 tons of corn and soybeans left Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
That brings the total to 12 since the first ship left a week ago.
The July 22 grain export pact brokered by Turkey and the United Nations was further bolstered when the parties enacted procedures for merchant vessels transporting Ukrainian grain, including a 10-nautical-mile military exclusion zone, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for nearly a third of world wheat exports.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/attack-on-a-nuclear-complex-is-a-suicidal-thing-alarm-grows-over-shelling-of-plant-in-ukraine-41898785.html ‘Attacking a nuclear complex is a suicidal thing’ – Concerns grow over shelling of facility in Ukraine