Sept. 6 (BP) — United Nations inspectors on Tuesday called for the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, saying it was gravely concerned about the situation.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency went to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant last week, checking critical safety systems and assessing damage at the facility. In their report, they said that shelling should be stopped immediately.
“While the ongoing shelling has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to represent a constant threat to nuclear safety and security with potential impact on critical safety functions that may lead to radiological consequences with great safety significance,” the report said.
“There is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident arising from physical damage caused by military means,” the IAEA added. “This can be achieved by the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone.”
Ukraine’s main energy utility said it deliberately took the plant’s final nuclear reactor offline so crews could extinguish a fire that had broken out due to fighting near the facility. It was the second time in two weeks that the plant became entirely disconnected from the main power grid, which forces the plant to use temporary power generators.
The Zaporizhzhia plant is the largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine and all of Europe.
Fighting near the facility continued on Tuesday, heightening danger and concern for the plant. Russian forces have controlled the facility, which is located on the banks of the Dnipro River, since they took control of the city of Zaporizhzhia months ago.
Meanwhile, Ukraine kept up its counteroffensive in the south on Tuesday as Russian forces maintained attacks in the east. Russia’s military also struck an oil depot in central Ukraine, officials said. State-run Russian media also reported Ukrainian attacks in the southern town of Kakhovka along the Dnipro River.
A Ukrainian policeman inspects debris from a rocket near a recently shelled school in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Photo by Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE
Vladimir Leontiev, the Russian-supported head of the local administration, said air defenses shot down most of the Ukrainian missile attacks late Monday and early Tuesday.
Leontiev said that Ukraine’s attacks struck road infrastructure and a hydroelectric power station in the area. Ukrainian airstrikes and shelling attacks targeted a nearby Russian-held bridge to disrupt supply lines.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said that the counteroffensive has expanded to the east and southeast.
“Since the beginning of the operation to liberate the south of Ukraine, our military has liberated several settlements on the western bank of the Dnieper,” Arestovych said according to The Guardian.
“These are subtle movements on the map. But the beginning of counteroffensive actions on different sectors of the front on our part speaks of a change in the situation as a whole.”
Heavy fire and a Russian missile attack were reported Tuesday at an oil depot in Kryvyi Rih. Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration head Valentyn Reznichenko said firefighters and a fire truck responded to the attack.
Despite repeated Russian attacks in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian officials say there has been no change in territorial control.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that U.S. intelligence said in a newly declassified report that Russia is buying weapons from North Korea due to a shortage of artillery.
Russia has already received drone equipment from Iran, which reflects the difficulty it faces in strengthening supply chains in light of sanctions from the United States and western Europe.