Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant came under heavy shelling on Saturday night for the second time in two days, with rockets landing near a dry storage facility where 174 casks of spent nuclear fuel were being kept, the state-run Energoatom nuclear power company said.
At present, Russian forces are in control of the plant, the largest of its kind in Europe.
More than a dozen explosions rocked the plant on Saturday evening and Sunday, according to the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of nuclear watchdog agency, expressed alarm by the reports of damage after Friday’s attack and demanded that an IAEA team of experts urgently be allowed to visit the plant to assess and safeguard the complex.
“I’m extremely concerned by the shelling yesterday at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond,” Grossi said in a statement, calling the attacks “completely unacceptable” and saying they “must be avoided at all costs.
“Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!” he warned.
The shelling on Saturday was apparently “aimed specifically at the containers with processed fuel, which are stored outside next to the site of the shelling,” Energoatom said in a statement on Telegram.
The company said “timely detection and response in case of aggravation of the radiation situation or leakage of radiation from spent nuclear fuel casks are currently impossible” as a result.
“This time a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously avoided, but miracles cannot last forever,” the company warned.
The shelling on Friday damaged a high-voltage power line — forcing one of the plant’s reactors to stop operating — along with a nitrogen-oxygen station and the combined auxiliary building. Energoatom warned following the attack that there were “still risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is also high.”
Ukraine and Russia have each accused the other of carrying out the attack, which also damaged three radiation monitoring detectors.