Ukraine nuclear fears SOAR as power plant 'out of control' – officials plead with Putin

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant was one of the first major facilities taken by the Russian army after the February invasion got underway. The facility is Europe’s largest nuclear power station, and was hit by shelling in early March.

But Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warned on Wednesday that the organisation desperately needed to visit the facility after “patchy” communication.

He said the power plant “is completel out of control”, adding: “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous.” 

The facility falls within Russian territory, but is thought to still be operated by Ukrainian staff.

The IAEA expressed concern over whether those running the facility had access to all necessary equipment key for keeping the power plant secure.

Mr Grossi said: “Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated.”

Mr Grossi was cateogorical in saying that the power plant was exhibiting a “catalogue of things that should never be happening in any nuclear facility”.

He added: “And this is why I have been insisting from day one that we have to be able to go there to perform this safety and security evaluation, to do the repairs and to assist as we already did in Chernobyl.”

Mr Grossi said he hoped the IAEA’s presence “will be a deterrent to any act of violence against this nuclear power plant”.

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Yevgeny Balitsky, who heads up the Russian-controlled adminstration in the Zaporizhzhia region, accused Kyiv of attacking the facility using Western-supplied weapons.

He said: “We are ready to show how the Russian military is guarding the plant, and how Ukraine, which receives weapons from the West, uses those weapons including drones to attack the nuclear power plant.”

But Washington hit back at the claim, saying Russian forces were using the nuclear power plant as a “nuclear shield”.

Shortly after Russian forces gained control of the power plant, a fire broke out at the facility, sparking international condemnation.

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in the wake of the shelling-induced blaze that the potential devastation could have equalled six Chernobyls.

Northern Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant was the site of the world’s worst nuclear power disaster in 1986.

Mr Zelensky warned: “If there is an explosion, it is the end of everything. The end of Europe.”

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