IAEA issues warning over Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant

A potential disaster at the Zaporozhye facility must be prevented, the international watchdog’s head has said.

The situation around Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, which sits close to the frontline with Ukraine, is becoming more dangerous, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi warned on Saturday. The statement came as Kiev is preparing to launch a counteroffensive, and the authorities of Zaporozhye Region began the partial evacuation of cities close to the conflict zone.

In a statement on IAEA’s website, Grossi said the situation in the area near the facility was “becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.”

“I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant. We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment,” he added, urging to protect Europe’s biggest nuclear site.

Grossi said the IAEA team posted to oversee the plant was monitoring the evacuation from the nearby city of Energodar that was announced on Friday. Acting Governor Evgeny Balitsky said children, the elderly, hospital patients and other vulnerable groups would be relocated due to the “increased shelling” by Ukrainian troops.

The plant’s director, Yury Chernichuk, said on Friday that all reactors were shut down and the personnel were “doing everything to ensure nuclear safety.”

Energodar Mayor Eduard Senovoz said the relocation was going as planned and there was “no panic” in the city.

The ZNPP came under Russian control in the wake of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine launched in February 2022. Zaporozhye Region became part of Russia after holding a referendum in September.

Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of shelling the plant and voiced concerns that each other’s actions could trigger a nuclear disaster. Last month, The Times reported that Ukrainian troops had tried unsuccessfully to recapture the ZNPP in October 2022. Kiev has not confirmed that this attempt took place.

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