Situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant ‘very alarming,’ says nuclear watchdog

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The situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has deteriorated rapidly to the point of becoming “very alarming,” the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned at a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York late Thursday.

“These military actions near such a large nuclear facility could lead to very serious consequences,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

The plant was shelled on August 5, causing several explosions near the electrical switchboard and a power shutdown, he added. There was also shelling at a nitrogen oxygen station.

While firefighters had extinguished the blaze, repairs must still be examined and evaluated, Grossi said at the meeting, which was requested by Russia.

The plant has been under the control of Moscow’s troops since March, but is operated by Ukrainian staff. According to Ukraine, some 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy machinery, including tanks, are stationed at the site.

Grossi on Thursday re-upped his call for the agency to be allowed to visit the site as soon as possible to carry out safety checks, a statement echoed by other nations at the meeting.

While the IAEA’s initial assessment shows no immediate threat, “this could change at any moment,” Grossi warned.

Kyiv has so far blocked the IAEA from visiting the nuclear plant. At Thursday’s meeting, Kyiv’s representative said the withdrawal of Russian troops was the only way to remove the nuclear threat.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also stressed that the plant should return under Ukrainian control, saying: “This is a global interest, not just a Ukrainian need.”