ZURICH, Aug 6 (Reuters) – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raised grave concerns on Saturday about the shelling the previous day at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, saying the action showed the risk of a nuclear disaster.
“I’m extremely concerned by the shelling yesterday at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.
Grossi, who leads the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, urged all sides in the Ukraine conflict to exercise the “utmost restraint” around the plant.
Shells hit a high-voltage power line on Friday at the plant, prompting its operators to disconnect a reactor despite no radioactive leak being detected. The plant was captured by Russian forces in early March in the opening stage of the war but it is still run by its Ukrainian technicians.
Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom blamed Russia for the damage at the power station. Russia’s defence ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant, saying a leak of radiation had been avoided only by luck.
Grossi said that military action jeopardizing the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia plant “is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs”.
“Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would amount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences.”
(Reporting by John RevillEditing by Frances Kerry)