Ukraine considers closing Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as fighting rages

Earlier this week, experts called for a security zone around Zaporizhzhia

David Harding
Thursday 08 September 2022 10:18 BST
Moment of explosion in Enerhodar near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Ukraine has said it might have to close Europe’s largest nuclear power station to avoid a disaster as fighting raged on Thursday close to the Zaporizhzhia plant.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said that villages near the plant had been heavily shelled in the 24 hours to Thursday morning from “tanks, mortars, barrel and jet artillery”.

The plant, in southeastern Ukraine, is in Russian-controlled territory.

Overnight, Russian forces targeted the nearby town of Nikopol with rockets and heavy artillery, damaging several buildings.

Ukraine has said it might have to shut the nuclear plant and called on residents in areas near the embattled facility to evacuate for their own safety.

Earlier this week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for a “security zone” to be established around the plant.

The “shelling on site and in its vicinity should be stopped immediately to avoid any further damages to the plant and associated facilities, for the safety of the operating staff and to maintain the physical integrity to support safe and secure operation”, the IAEA said.

“This requires agreement by all relevant parties to the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP,” it added.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the shelling that has occurred close to the plant, risking nuclear catastrophe. Russian forces took over the plant soon after their invasion of Ukraine but Ukrainian technicians still operate the power station.

Mykola Lukashuk, the head of the Dnipro region council, said on the Telegram channel that Russians were shelling Nikopol from the direction of Enerhodar - the main town serving the Zaporizhzhia plant.

“The occupiers are deliberately shelling civilian objects in order to terrorize the population,” Lukashuk said.

Russia denies deliberately attacking civilians in its “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its allies say the invasion is an unprovoked war of aggression.

On Thursday, the Russian state TASS news agency reported, citing a Moscow-installed head of the Enerhodar administration, Alexander Volga, that Ukraine forces have not been striking the plant with artillery.

“No cannon artillery strikes were observed at the (plant), but drones periodically fly in,” TASS quoted Volga, as saying.

“Projectiles have been dropped from UAVs on the territory of the plant itself for the past two days.”

(With agencies)

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