The chief of the UN's nuclear watchdog said Thursday that the "alarming" situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine has reached a "grave hour" and demanded an immediate examination of the site by international specialists.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), issued a warning that recent attacks had damaged components of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility and raised the possibility of a "unacceptable" radiation release.
Despite the fact that "things might change at any time," Grossi noted that "IAEA specialists think that there is no imminent threat to nuclear safety."
He said, "Any military activity endangering nuclear safety or security must cease right away." "These military operations so close to a massive nuclear site might have very devastating repercussions."
The facility at Zaporizhzhia
The IAEA has warned that Russia and Ukraine have violated "indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars" since they have so far refused to allow an examination of the plant by the agency and have accused one another of bombarding the facility.
Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the UN, accused Ukraine of firing the shells and pleaded with Kyiv's allies to cease their attacks to avoid a catastrophic radiation leak.
Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, however, blamed Moscow, claiming that it was endangering all of Europe.
Nuclear safety will only be restored for all of Europe, according to Zelensky, if Russians are completely removed from the Zaporizhzhia NPP's land and Ukraine regains full sovereignty over the area around the facility.
Ten shells reportedly fell nearby the complex on Thursday, delaying a shift change, according to the nuclear agency of Ukraine, Energoatom.
According to the agency, "the vehicles carrying the staff of the following shift were turned back to Enerhodar for the safety of nuclear workers." The prior shift's employees will remain on the job until things return to normal.
Despite increased radiation, Energoatom reported radiation levels at the location were normal.Despite further attacks, Energoatom reported that radiation levels at the facility remained normal.
Because they presume Kiev won't retaliate and risk a crisis, a number of Western and Ukrainian officials think Russia is using the massive nuclear complex as a bastion to hide its soldiers and launch strikes.
While Britain's Defense Ministry said in a recent security assessment that Russia's actions at the complex undermine the safety of its operations, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has charged Moscow with exploiting the facility as a cover for its soldiers.
In late July, Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar in Ukraine, said that heavy armament had been seen being used by Russian soldiers close to the facility because "they know very well that the Ukrainian Armed Forces would not reply to these attacks because they might harm the nuclear power plant."
In contrast to Bonnie Jenkins, the US undersecretary for arms control and international affairs, who stated at the UN that Russia is to blame for the "nuclear hazards" at the plant, the US on Thursday supported Ukraine's requests for a demilitarized zone to surround the facility.
"The various repercussions of this fight, including the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," she cautioned the UN Security Council, "will only stop when Russia ceases its war."
In a statement on Thursday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his "deep concern" about the plant shelling, which he had earlier referred to as "suicidal."
We must be conscious that any potential harm to Zaporizhzhia or any other nuclear plants in Ukraine or anyplace else might have devastating results for the neighborhood as well as the surrounding area, he warned.