Zelenskyy raises alarm over ‘radiation catastrophe’ ahead of IAEA report – Nexus News
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has cautioned of a near “radiation catastrophe” as a fire caused the shutdown of the last working reactor at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, hours before the UN’s atomic watchdog was as a result of to brief the Security Council on its assessment of the situation at the site.
Ukraine and Russia have each blamed the other for risking catastrophe by shelling close to the plant, which was seized by Russian troops soon after they commenced their invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
“Power unit (reactor) No. 6 was unloaded and disconnected from the grid” because of a fire that was “triggered because of shelling” that destabilized power lines, state-run company Energoatom disclosed in a statement on Monday.
The reactor was the last of Zaporizhzhia’s six reactors still in operation, after shelling detached reactor number 5 on Saturday, according to a press release from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The UN nuclear agency noted that Ukraine had said a backup power line was destroyed in the fire, but the connection would be recovered once the flames had been extinguished. While the plant is occupied by Russia, Ukrainian civilians remain responsible for the operations of the facility, the biggest in Europe.
“A secure off-site power supply from the grid and back-up power supply systems are essential for ensuring nuclear safety,” the IAEA added.
Speaking in his regular video speech on Monday night, Zelenskyy stated that the shelling disclosed that Russia did “not care what the IAEA will say”.
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“Again – already for the second time – because of Russian provocation, the Zaporizhzhia station was placed one step away from a radiation catastrophe,” he said.
A 14-strong team from the IAEA visited Zaporizhzhya last week, with the agency’s chief Rafael Grossi stating that the site had been destroyed in fighting.
Grossi is revealed to release a report on the mission’s findings later on Tuesday and will brief the United Nations Security Council at an open meeting at 19:00 GMT. The meeting was summoned by Russia in light of what it said were attempts by Ukraine to “derail” the IAEA’s visit to the Zaporizhzhya.
Zelenskyy said he hoped the watchdog’s findings would be “objective”.
Two IAEA experts are expected to stay at the power plant “on a permanent basis”, Energoatom said in a press release on Monday.
Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, was the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, when a reactor at the northern Chornobyl plant exploded.