Russia, Ukraine trade blame for new nuclear plant strike

MOSCOW - Moscow and Kyiv on Sunday blamed each other for a new strike on the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant, where recent fighting sparked a UN warning of a potential nuclear disaster. Zaporizhzhia -- Europe’s largest atomic power complex that was occupied by Russia early in its offensive -- has in recent days been the scene of military strikes that have damaged several structures, forcing the shutdown of a reactor.
With Russia and Ukraine blaming each other for the attacks, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned on Saturday of “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”. On Sunday, Russian occupation authorities in Energodar city where the plant is located said that overnight “the Ukrainian army carried out an attack with a cluster bomb fired from an Uragan rocket launcher.”
The projectiles fell “within 400 metres of a working reactor,” Russia’s TASS state news agency quoted them as saying.
The strike damaged some administrative buildings and fell in a “zone storing used nuclear fuel”. However Ukraine’s state nuclear enegry company Energoatom that operates the plant said the “Russian military keeps committing acts of nuclear terrorism” at the site.
“Yesterday ... the Russian occupiers once again fired rockets at the site of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and the town of Enerhodar,” a company statement said. “One... employee was hospitalised with shrapnel wounds caused by the explosion,” it added.
The company accused the Russians of aiming at spent fuel casks, which are stored in the open near the site of shelling.
“Three radiation monitoring detectors around the ... site were damaged,” the statement said adding that as a result radiation detection was impossible.
Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant since the early days of their offensive and Kyiv has accused them of storing heavy weapons there.
Moscow has accused Ukrainian forces of targeting the plant. Energoatom had on Saturday said strikes on Friday had “caused a serious risk for the safe operation of the plant”, damaging a power cable and forcing the shutdown of one of the reactors.
More Ukraine grain sets sail as new shelling hits nuclear plant
Four more ships carrying around 170,000 tonnes of grain set off from the Black Sea ports of Odessa and Chornomorsk on Sunday, Ukrainian authorities said, as Moscow accused Kyiv of carrying out a new strike against a Russian-occupied nuclear plant. “The second convoy of Ukrainian supplies has just left... three from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa,” Kyiv’s infrastructure ministry wrote on Telegram.
It said that the ships -- which it named as the Mustafa Necati, the Star Helena, the Glory and the Riva Wind -- were carrying “around 170,000 tonnes of agriculture-related merchandise,” without specifying further.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Moscow accused Kyiv’s forces of again shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the south of Ukraine, which it took control of shortly after invading its pro-Western neighbour. The Ukrainian army “carried out a strike with a cluster bomb fired from a Ouragan multiple rocket launcher,” the occupying authorities in Energodar, the town where the plant is situated, were quoted by the Russian state news agency TASS as saying. “The shrapnel and the rocket engine fell 400 metres (1,300 feet) from a working reactor”, “damaged” administrative buildings and hit “a used nuclear fuel storage area,” the authorities said, without providing any evidence to back up the claims. AFP was not able to confirm the allegations from an independent source. On Saturday, the plant’s operator, Energoatom, had already said that parts of the facility had been “seriously damaged” by military strikes and one of its reactors was forced to shut down. Both Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of attacking the plant. Because Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s biggest nuclear plant, the prospect of it being seriously damaged in the fighting is setting alarm bells ringing, not least at the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

| Head of the UN Nuclear Watchdog warns of “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”

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