The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said on Saturday that he was “alarmed” by Friday’s shelling. Ukraine‘s Zaporizhzhia power plant, Europe’s largest such plant.
In a statement, Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the strikes represented “the latest in a long line of increasingly alarming reports” and underlined “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond”.
Earlier on Saturday, the plant’s operator said Friday’s shelling had “severely damaged” a station containing nitrogen and oxygen and an “auxiliary building”.
Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for the attacks.
Grossi said, “I condemn all acts of violence committed at or near” the factory or against its personnel. He added that “military action that endangers the safety and security” of the facility was “totally unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs”.
Grossi also reiterated his willingness “to lead a mission of IAEA safety, security and protection experts” to Zaporizhzhia.
Ukraine has so far rejected the idea of such a mission, which it says would legitimize Russia’s presence on the ground.
Russian troops have occupied the Zaporizhzhia factory since the early days of their invasion of Ukraine. However, Grossi insisted that he “wouldn’t give up”.
“I will continue to push and push again for this IAEA mission to finally take place,” he said, while admitting it would require “cooperation, understanding and facilitation from both Ukraine and Russia”.
As part of such a mission, “IAEA safeguards inspectors can conduct significant verification activities at the plant,” and the IAEA “would also provide unbiased and independent information” about the facility’s status, Grossi said.