Any attack on nuclear power plants would be a suicidal incident, Guterres told reporters in Tokyo on Monday. “I hope these attacks will end,” he said, and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to grant access to the plant.
The Zaporizhia plant occupies an extensive area on the Dnipro River. It has continued to operate at reduced capacity since Russian forces seized it in early March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining on the job.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s state energy company Energotum said one worker was wounded by Russian shelling around the plant on Saturday.
Energotom claimed that three radiation monitoring sensors were also damaged, “timely detection and response in the event of an escalation of the radiation situation or radiation leakage from spent nuclear fuel casks is currently impossible.”
“A nuclear disaster was miraculously averted this time, but miracles can’t last forever,” the company added.
Speaking on Ukrainian television, Energotum’s president, Petro Kotin, said there was a strike on Sunday 20 meters from the processed fuel storage area.
“If the containers were hit with processed fuel, that would be a radiation accident,” he said.
If one container is hit “it’s a localized accident in the plant and the surrounding terrain. If it’s two (or) three containers – the affected area increases,” Kotin advised.
During the shelling, communication lines between the nuclear plant, the hydroelectric plant and the Ukrainian energy system were severed, Kotin said.
“As of now, Zaporizhzhia NPP (Nuclear Power Plant) is connected to the Ukrainian energy system with only one communication line. If all the lines are damaged, the plant will be transferred to ‘black-out’ mode, i.e. completely de-energized and this situation is too dangerous to keep the fuel in nuclear reactors in a safe condition. He said.
This is the second time in so many days that the plant has been hit. Both Ukraine and Russia have traded responsibility for the attack.
Russian-backed officials in the nearby city — Enerhodar — claimed a Ukrainian missile landed within 400 meters of one of the plant’s reactors. At the same time as the power plant, the city was captured by Russian forces.
“Tonight, the armed formations of Ukraine were hit with a Uragon 220 mm rocket missile cluster rocket,” the local authority claimed, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
“Administrative buildings and the area adjacent to the dry cask storage facility were damaged by projectiles. It is important to note that the impact site of the warhead fragments and rocket propulsion engine was no more than 400 meters from the active reactor.” officials said.
CNN cannot verify the claims made by either side. The Russians have shelled the Ukrainian-held town of Nikopol from positions around the plant.
Fears have been growing for the safety of the Zaporizhia nuclear plant since Russian forces seized the site, but radioactive leaks are being detected despite Friday’s shelling damaging a high-voltage power line and shutting down one of the plant’s reactors.
After the attack, Russian shellfire damaged the nitrogen-oxygen center and associated auxiliary building, and “there are still risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive material, and the risk of fire is high,” Energotum said.
On Saturday, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the shelling “underscores the very real risk of a nuclear catastrophe that threatens public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has accused Russia of using the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant to carry out terrorism in Europe, spoke on Sunday with European Council President Charles Michel about the situation at the complex.
“Russia’s nuclear terrorism requires a strong response from the international community – sanctions on Russia’s nuclear industry and nuclear fuel,” Zelensky tweeted.
The IAEA has been trying to organize a mission to rescue experts to visit the plant since it was seized by Russian forces. Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, warned at a press conference on Monday of the catastrophic consequences if something happened to the plant, saying it “cannot even be compared to Chernobyl or Fukushima”.
Ukraine wants a delegation of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations to visit the station to monitor its condition but Russia’s military actions in Ukraine are making such a trip “impossible,” Tsymbaliuk said.
Irresponsible violation of nuclear safety regulations
As Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for recent rocket and missile attacks near the Zaporizhia nuclear plant, Energotom President Kotin said Russian forces should be expelled from the plant and a demilitarized zone created on the plant’s territory.
He repeated Ukrainian claims that Russia had moved weapons to the plant’s power units.
“There are 14 units of heavy military equipment in the first power unit. There are 6 vehicles in the second engine room and we don’t know what is inside those vehicles. There are also heavy weapons,” he said.
Russian forces occupied all shelters at the power plant and the workers had nowhere to go when the shelling happened, he said.
A number of Western and Ukrainian officials believe Russia is now using the giant nuclear facility as a bastion to protect its troops and mount attacks, as they fear Kyiv will not return fire and risk a crisis.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Moscow of using the plant to protect its forces, while Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a recent security assessment that Russia’s actions at the complex undermine the safety of its operations.
The Ukrainian mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said in late July that Russian forces were observed using heavy weapons near the plant because “the Ukrainian armed forces do not respond to these attacks, as they know very well that they will damage the nuclear power plant.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry warned on Friday that further attacks on the plant could be disastrous.
“The possible consequences of hitting a functioning reactor are equivalent to using a nuclear bomb,” the ministry said on Twitter.