The UN’s nuclear watchdog expressed concerns about the safety of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest facility of its kind. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a warning about the potential dangers at the plant.
Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi raised concerns about the plant’s safety due to an evacuation order issued by the governor of the Russia-occupied region of Enerhodar, where most of the plant staff live. Ongoing attacks in the area prompted the evacuation. The plant is situated near the conflict’s front lines, and Russian forces recently attacked the Ukrainian-held town of Nikopol, resulting in casualties.
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Grossi stressed that the IAEA is closely monitoring the situation to evaluate any risks to nuclear safety and security. His comments were prompted by the evacuation order issued by Yevgeny Balitsky, the governor appointed by Russia, which affected civilians from 18 settlements, including Enerhodar. The IAEA experts at the plant continue to report hearing regular shelling.
The evacuation of Enerhodar has begun, primarily for residents who acquired Russian citizenship after Moscow captured the town earlier in the war. They are being transported to the Russia-occupied Azov Sea coast, around 200 kilometers southeast of the plant.
The IAEA clarified that the plant’s operating staff remains on-site and is taking necessary measures to ensure nuclear safety and security. All six reactors are currently shut down. A serious incident could cause up to 3 million deaths and affect 51 million people with radiation, Ukrainian lawmakers reportedly say.
Grossi expressed deep concern about the unpredictable and potentially dangerous situation near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Urgent action is needed to prevent the risk of a severe nuclear accident and its dire consequences for the population and the environment. He also highlighted the increasingly tense conditions for the plant’s personnel and their families.
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The Russia-appointed governor ordered the evacuation of villages close to the front line, anticipating a possible Ukrainian spring counter-offensive involving the Zaporizhzhia region, where Moscow controls about 80% of the territory. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed that residents are being evacuated to Berdiansk and Prymorsk, located on the coast of the Sea of Azov.
The Zaporizhzhia complex, operated by Ukrainian technicians despite being captured by Russia, remains a concern. It has the highest power generation capacity among all US nuclear facilities. The plant was shelled in August, raising international alarm. Both sides blame each other for the attacks near the facility. Grossi previously visited the plant in March to facilitate an agreement ensuring its protection.
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Ukrainian nuclear plant faces blazing attack, IAEA says no radioactive material released