War in Ukraine: Concerns grow over Zaporijia nuclear power plant

War in Ukraine: Concerns grow over Zaporijia nuclear power plant

While Vladimir Putin has accepted that an inspection will soon take place at the facility, European leaders are increasingly warning of the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.

This is an increasingly feared scenario: the threat of a major nuclear disaster around the Zaporijia power plant, southeast of Kyiv, Ukraine. Faced with this fear, Vladimir Putin, in a phone call with Emmanuel Macron on Friday, accepted that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would send a mission to Europe’s largest facility.

During a visit to Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called on Russia to disconnect from the Ukrainian grid this power plant, which its army has been manning since early March and which has become the target of strikes in Moscow and Russia, among others, in recent weeks cut off Kyiv accuse each other.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian power plant operator Energoatom said it feared such a scenario, saying the Russian military was searching for supplies for diesel generators that would be activated after the reactors were shut down and had restricted personnel access to the facilities.

A “highly fragile” situation

“The systematic bombing (…) of the territory of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant creates the danger of a large-scale disaster that could lead to radioactive contamination of large areas,” the Russian President warned on Friday before a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron .

In a statement, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi welcomed “recent statements showing that Ukraine and Russia support the IAEA’s goal of deploying a mission to Zaporizhia.

“In this highly volatile and fragile situation, it is crucial that no further action is taken that could create a further vulnerability […] one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world,” stressed the head of the IAEA.

Modeling of the risk of nuclear propagation in case of an accident at the Zaporijjia power plant. Modeling of the risk of nuclear propagation in case of an accident at the Zaporijjia power plant. © BFM TV

A model by a Ukrainian institute for hydrometeorology also shows the effects of a nuclear disaster in Zaporijjia: A possible radioactive cloud could spread very quickly in Europe, especially in Poland and the Baltic States, the experts report.

More than 9,000 people were evacuated from the region

“The restoration of total security” on this page “can begin after the mission has started its work,” commented Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the evening.

United Nations Secretary-General Anotnio Guterres had assessed the day before in Lviv, where he met the Ukrainian and Turkish presidents, that “any possible harm in Zaporijjia would be suicide” and urged “demilitarizing the plant”. . On Friday, it was the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, who called on the Russians to “pull out” of this side and “immediately return full control to its rightful owner, Ukraine.”

More than 21,000 people have been evacuated from the occupied territories in ten days, including more than 9,000 from the Zaporizhia region, announced Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.