Russia risks ‘global nuclear disaster’ with power plant shutdown, warns | World | New

Russian shelling near Zaporizhzhia is ‘crazy’, says expert

Russia said today it could shut down Zaporizhia nuclear power plant after being bombed on the front lines in Ukraine. Moscow has also rejected international calls for a demilitarized zone around Zaporizhia in the south of the country, which it seized at the start of the war and which is still operated by Ukrainian engineers under Russian occupation.

This deliberate terror on the part of the aggressor can have globally catastrophic consequences for the whole world.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Zelensky, who discussed the situation at the plant with visiting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Lviv, western Ukraine, called on the United Nations to ensure that it be demilitarized and protected.

Writing on the Telegram messaging app, he said: “This deliberate terror on the part of the aggressor can have globally catastrophic consequences for the entire world.”

Russia was using “nuclear blackmail” at the plant, Mr Zelensky added.

The power plant sits on the Russian-controlled southern bank of a huge reservoir with Ukrainian forces holding the northern bank.

Vladimir Poutine

Vladimir Putin’s Russia threatens to close the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (Image: GETTY)


Yesterday, rescuers from the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry attend an exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia (Image: GETTY)

The past few days have seen several incidents of bombings at the factory, with both sides blaming the other.

Ukraine also accuses Russia of using the plant as a shield to allow its forces to launch through-tank strikes on Ukrainian-held towns, which Moscow denies.

Foreign countries and the United Nations have urged Moscow to allow international inspectors.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman today called calls for a demilitarized zone around the plant “unacceptable”.

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Zaporizhzhia: a satellite view (Image: GETTY)

The Defense Ministry has insisted that Moscow may shut down the plant if it comes under further attack.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of planning to shut down the plant to cut it off from the Ukrainian power grid and hand it over to Russia – stealing its production.

National nuclear energy company Energoatom said closing the plant would increase the risk “of a radioactive disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant”.

Disconnecting the complex’s generators from the Ukrainian electrical system would prevent them from being used to cool nuclear fuel, in the event of a power failure at the plant, he said.

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Volodymyr Zelensky UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Volodymyr Zelensky and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (Image: GETTY)

Volodymyr Zelensky Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Volodymyr Zelensky and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ukraine (Image: GETTY)

However, the Russian Defense Ministry has accused Kyiv of planning some form of incident at the nuclear power plant as a “provocation” during Mr Guterres’ visit. A Ukrainian official dismissed what he described as a cynical claim by Moscow.

The last time Portuguese national Mr Guterres visited Ukraine, in April, Russia fired missiles at a residential building in Kyiv, injuring at least 10 people as Mr Guterres ended talks with Zelensky in proximity.

At the time, Mr Guterres called the incident “shocking” and Ukraine accused Moscow of seeking to humiliate the United Nations. Russia has denied targeting civilians or intentionally timing its attack to coincide with the visit.

Closing a nuclear power plant is a complicated operation that requires stopping the nuclear chain reactions while protecting the fuel against heating and melting.

Ukrainian nuclear power plants

Ukrainian nuclear power plants mapped (Picture: Express)

Mark Hibbs, senior researcher in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: “If Russia were to take action to force the plant out of Ukraine’s electricity system, it could threaten the plant’s operational safety, in addition to aggravate Ukraine’s energy crisis in the winter.

In a briefing, Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s radioactive, chemical and biological defense forces, said the plant’s back-up support systems had been damaged as a result of shelling. He presented a slide showing that in the event of an accident, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had spoken with the director general of the International Atomic Agency, who was ready to lead a delegation to the plant.

Mr. Kuleba tweeted: “I underscored the urgency of the mission to address nuclear security threats caused by Russia’s hostilities.”


Zaporizhzhia: A Russian soldier stands guard (Image: GETTY)

Speaking to last week, Nickolas Roth, senior director of the nuclear materials security program team at the Nuclear Threat Initiative in the United States, said: “Nuclear power plants should not be military targets. There should be an immediate cessation of hostilities at Zaporizhzhia so that international experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency can identify and begin to address nuclear safety and security risks at the site.

“As for what is happening, reports have indicated that there have been attacks on the site in recent days, resulting in damage. Any attack on a nuclear power plant, let alone the largest in Europe, is an incredibly reckless and dangerous act.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was also expected to attend talks with MM. Guterres and Zelensky in Lviv, to discuss progress in resuming Ukrainian grain exports under a United Nations-Ankara-brokered deal to lift the Russian blockade.

Russia and Ukraine are both major food producers, and the blockade threatens to exacerbate world hunger.

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