International Atomic Energy Agency chief condemns drone strike on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine News
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International Atomic Energy Agency chief condemns drone strike on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), condemned on Sunday a drone strike on one of the six nuclear reactors at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine, warning against the risk of a major nuclear accident.

According to Grossi, the IAEA has confirmed at least three direct hits against the ZNPP main reactor containment structures on Sunday, causing one casualty and potentially undermining the reactor’s containment system. While the IAEA experts sent to the site did not observe any structural damage to the systems, structures and components important to nuclear safety, they reported observing “minor superficial scorching to the top of the reactor dome roof of Unit 6 and scoring of a concrete slab supporting the primary make-up water storage tanks.”

Grossi said that this is the first time since November 2022 that such an attack took place, which is clearly in violation of the five basic principles he established to avoid serious nuclear accidents with radiological consequences. Referring to the Sunday incident, he stated that he would “firmly appeal to military decision-makers to abstain from any action violating the basic principles that protect nuclear facilities.”

Russia alleges the series of drone attacks, including the reported one on Sunday and an earlier assault on April 5, were initiated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It further claims the Sunday attack injured three staffers at the plant but did not cause critical damage, and the radiation levels at the plant and its surroundings remain unchanged. The Rosatom State Corporation, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, has condemned the assaults on the ZNPP facilities and urged the IAEA and the EU nations to “promptly address the escalating situation at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.” 

In response to Russia’s claims, Andriy Yusov, representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Ukraine, stated that “Ukraine is not involved in any armed provocations on the territory of the ZANP illegally occupied by Russia.” Calling the drone attack a “simulated strike” of Russia, he commented that “the aggressor state once again endangers the nuclear facility, the civilian population and the environment of the whole of Europe” and urged Russia to withdraw its troops from all facilities of the ZNPP. He also stated, “Only this will allow us to restore compliance with all the necessary international norms and control over an important object of nuclear energy.”

Built by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the ZNPP is Europe’s largest and one of the world’s 10 largest nuclear power plants. Russia controlled the facilities shortly after the war began in 2022. Considering its geographical location and the military situations on the frontline, the IAEA has repeatedly warned against the risks associated with nuclear safety and urged parties’ restraint. As Grossi puts it, “no one can conceivably benefit or get any military or political advantage from attacks against nuclear facilities.”