Satellite images have shown damage from an artillery attack on the roof of a building right next to nuclear reactors at Ukraine’s beleaguered Zaporizhzhia plant, again raising fears of a radioactive disaster.
The latest attack on the plant came as a team from the UN’s nuclear watchdog visited the facility on Monday as Russia and Ukraine swapped accusations for bombing it .
New high-resolution satellite images collected by US company Maxar Technologies have shown damage to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant at Enerhodar, Ukraine.
Photos detailed the destruction of the roof of the building adjacent to several nuclear reactors at the Zaporizhzhia power plant. They also showed bushfires outside the main facility.
The Russian-installed administration in the region claimed that Ukrainian forces had struck the roof of the building used to store reactor fuel.
Radiation levels at the power plant were normal, however, and the situation at the site was under control, the RIA Novosti news agency said citing Russian officials installed.
hot spot of conflict
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team left Austria and arrived in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, on Monday.
“The mission is expected to start working at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the next few days,” ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Facebook.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will provide security for the IAEA mission and called on other countries to “put pressure on the Ukrainian side to make it stop threatening the European continent by bombing the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and its surroundings”. areas “.
Captured by Russian troops in March but ruled by the Ukrainian General Staff, Zaporizhzhia was a flashpoint in a conflict that turned into a war of attrition fought mainly in eastern and southern Ukraine six months after Russia launched its invasion.
“We must protect the safety and security of the largest nuclear facility in Ukraine and Europe,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said in a post on Twitter.
An IAEA team he led will reach the plant on the Dnieper River near the front lines in southern Ukraine later this week, Grossi said, without specifying the day.
The day has come, @IAEAorgThe Support and Assistance Mission of #Zaporizhzhya (ISAMZ) is now on its way. We must protect the safety and security of #Ukraine‘s and the largest nuclear facility in Europe. Proud to carry out this mission which will be #ZNPP later this week. pic.twitter.com/tyVY7l4SrM
— Rafael Mariano Grossi (@rafaelmgrossi) August 29, 2022
The IAEA tweeted separately that the mission would assess physical damage, assess the conditions under which personnel work at the plant and “determine the functionality of safety and security systems”.
It would also “perform urgent backup activities,” a reference to tracking nuclear materials.
“Without exaggeration, this mission will be the most difficult in the history of the IAEA,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
The United Nations and Ukraine have called for the withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear complex to ensure it is not a target.
The two sides exchanged accusations of each disaster wooing with their attacks for days.
With fears of a nuclear accident growing in a country still haunted by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, authorities in Zaporizhzhia are distributing iodine tablets and teaching residents how to use them in the event of a radioactive leak.
Russian forces fired on Enerhodar, the town where the plant is located, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff said on his Telegram channel on Sunday evening alongside a video of firefighters spraying burning cars.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported further Ukrainian bombings at the plant over the weekend. Nine shells fired by Ukrainian artillery landed on the factory grounds, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
“At present, full-time technical staff monitor the technical condition of the nuclear power plant and ensure its operation. The radiological situation in the nuclear power plant area remains normal,” he said in a statement.
The Russian news agency quoted authorities as saying they shot down a Ukrainian drone that planned to attack the plant’s nuclear waste storage area.
Two of the plant’s reactors were cut off from the power grid last week due to bombings.
Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, warned on Monday against Russian attempts to conceal their military use of the plant.
“The occupiers, preparing for the arrival of the IAEA mission, increased pressure on the staff…to prevent them from disclosing evidence of the occupiers’ crimes at the plant and its use as a military base,” said an Energoatom official, adding four factories. workers were injured in the Russian bombardment of the town where they live.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova lashed out at what she called “inadequate and false assessments” of the country’s role in accepting the mission of the IAEA.
She argued that Moscow approved the mission months ago as Western countries tried to portray the IAEA trip as a diplomatic breakthrough that Russia’s hand was being forced to accept.
The White House said Monday that Russia should agree to a demilitarized zone around Ukraine’s nuclear power plant. A controlled shutdown of the plant would be the safest option, House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“As we’ve said many times, a nuclear power plant is not the proper place for combat operations,” Kirby said.