Amid global alarm, Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant attacks

  • Kyiv warns of Chornobyl-style disaster unless area secured
  • Both sides say in favour of visit by nuclear inspectors
  • UN’s Guterres says any attack on a nuclear plant is ‘suicidal’
  • UK scientist says risk of major nuclear incident is small
  • Two Ukrainian grain ships leave ports as procedures agreed

KYIV, Aug 8 (Reuters) – International alarm over the weekend shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex grew on Monday, as Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for the attacks while seeking to address fears that their battle for control of the plant might trigger catastrophe.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, calling any attack on a nuclear plant a “suicidal thing”, demanded that U.N. nuclear inspectors be given access.

The largest complex of its kind in Europe, Zaporizhzhia is situated in a southern region seized by Russian invaders in March, when it was struck without damage to its reactors. The area is now being targeted by Ukraine for a counter-offensive. read more

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Kyiv appealed for the area around the plant to be demilitarised and for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, to be let in. Russia’s foreign ministry said it too favoured an IAEA visit, which it accused Ukraine of blocking while trying to “take Europe hostage” by shelling the plant. read more

Ukraine blamed Russia for weekend attacks around the complex, which is still being run by Ukrainian technicians. It said three radiation sensors were damaged and two workers injured by shrapnel.

Reuters could not verify either side’s version of what happened.

Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom, called for peacekeepers to be deployed in and run the Zaporizhzhia site, with operational control handed back to Ukraine.

He flagged the danger of shells hitting containers of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. If two or more were broken, it was “impossible to assess the scale” of the resulting disaster.

“Such insane actions could leave to the situation spiralling out of control and it will be a Fukushima or Chornobyl,” Kotin said.

Dr Mark Wenman, a nuclear expert at Imperial College London, played down the risk of a major incident, saying the Zaporizhzhia reactors were relatively robust and the spent fuel well protected.

“Although it may seem worrying, and any fighting on a nuclear site would be illegal …the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still small,” he said in a statement.


Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the IAEA, said Zaporizhzhia staff were “working under the barrels of Russian guns”. He called for a U.N.-led mission to the Soviet-era plant this month. read more

The Russian defence ministry meanwhile said Ukrainian attacks had damaged power lines servicing the plant and forced it to reduce output by two of its six reactors to “prevent disruption”. read more

The U.N.’s Guterres said IAEA personnel…

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