The International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded an urgent end to fighting around Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, warning soldiers in Ukraine that they are “playing with fire”.
Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear facility and has been occupied by Russian forces since the start of the war. It has become a focus of fighting since then; Kyiv says Russia is using the plant to launch attacks on Ukrainian cities, while Moscow has accused Ukraine of shelling the plant itself.
The IAEA conducted an inspection of the site last week and has declined to apportion blame but urged the two sides to establish a nuclear safety zone around the facility.
"Now the IAEA has been there, we have corroborated what is happening,” Director General Rafael Grossi said.
“And this is a measure that one way or the other must be put in place. We can do it. We have the means to do it... Nuclear security is indispensable. We are playing with fire."
Ukraine is also home to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant - which infamously went into meltdown in 1986.
However, nuclear safety engineer Norma O’Mahony says the plant at Zaporizhzhia is very different to Chernobyl:
“It’s a very different type of reactor to what they have at Chernobyl,” Ms O’Mahony explained to Newstalk Breakfast.
“There’s plenty of redundancy in the safety systems that they have there. The greatest risk appears to be from what the IAEA are telling us, is that they’re worried about losing the supply of electricity.
“Because you need electricity to keep those safety systems going to ensure that you can keep pumping water in and out of the reactor to keep it cool because ensuring that cooling is what prevents a meltdown.”
She added that a number of the electricity lines have reportedly been damaged - something that is of huge concern to the scientists who carried out the inspection.
“They have one that’s still maintained,” she added.
“And I believe their plea for this safe zone is really in regard to ensuring that they can protect that electricity supply.”
Main image: The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine. Picture by: Instagram/zelenskiy_official