UN Watchdog: Shelling Near Nuclear Plant Can't Go On

Agency calls for safety zone around Zaporizhzhia facility in Ukraine
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 9, 2022 12:20 PM CDT
UN Watchdog: Shelling Near Nuclear Plant Can't Go On
Girls play as a woman distributes iodine tablets to residents at a school in case of a radiation leak in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, last Friday.   (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Europe's largest nuclear power plant was operating in emergency mode Friday for the fifth straight day due to the war in Ukraine, prompting the head of the UN atomic watchdog to call for the establishment of an immediate safety zone around it to prevent a nuclear accident. The six-reactor Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant came under the control of Russian forces early in the war but is being operated by Ukrainian staff. The plant and surrounding areas have been repeatedly hit by shelling that Russia and Ukraine blame on each other, the AP reports.

The last power line connecting the plant to the Ukrainian electricity grid was cut on Monday, leaving the plant without an outside source of electricity. It is receiving power for its own safety systems from the only one of the six reactors that remains operational. Energoatom, the state nuclear operator, said Friday that repairs to the outside lines are impossible because of the shelling. Operating the plant in what is called island status carries "the risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards," the head of Energoatom said. "Only the withdrawal of the Russians from the plant and the creation of a security zone around it can normalize the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Only then will the world be able to exhale," Petro Kotin told Ukrainian TV.

Earlier, Kotin said the only operating reactor "can be stopped completely" at any moment, which would leave a diesel generator as the only power source. There are 20 generators on site and enough diesel fuel for 10 days. After that, about 200 tons of diesel fuel would be needed daily for the generators, which he said is an impossible order to fill while the plant is occupied by Russian forces. Rafael Grossi, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Friday that there was little likelihood of reestablishing reliable offsite power lines to the plant. A team from the agency arrived at the plant last week. (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned of a potential nuclear disaster at the plant.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.