Explosions shook Europe’s largest power plant over the weekend and Russia and Ukraine are both blaming the other side.
Rockets landed in the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on Saturday night, landing near dry spent-fuel storage facilities. Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear energy company that is nominally in charge of Zaporizhzhia, has been reporting on the attack via its Telegram channel. It said the attack in the facility landed near 174 casks, each with 24 assemblies of spent nuclear fuel. According to Energoatom, two workers were injured by shrapnel in the attack and have been hospitalized.
Russia blames Ukraine for the attack, and Russian news outlets published video of smoke billowing over the area. The Russian Defense Ministry posted photographs it claimed were the rockets. Ukraine blames Russia, claiming it shelled the power plant as an act of “nuclear terrorism.” Moscow also said the attack took down a high-voltage line that supplies electricity to regions around the power plant.
The attack came just days after the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the situation at the plant was “completely out of control.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres doubled down on his colleagues warnings over the weeked while speaking in Tokyo to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
"Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing. I hope that those attacks will end, and at the same time I hope that the IAEA will be able to access the plant,” Guterres said at the press conference. "We are witnessing a radicalisation in the geopolitical situation that makes the risk of a nuclear war again something we cannot completely forget.”
At the moment, it does not appear that the power plant was damaged in a way that could cause a radioactive incident. But Energoatom also said the rocket attack damaged three of the nuclear sensors at the site and that it would be more difficult from now on to detect radiation. Kyiv has said that it wants the IAEA to enter the plant to act as an impartial arbiter. Russia said the same thing, but accused Ukraine of stalling by shelling the plant in an attempt to “take Europe hostage.”
The attacks come at a delicate time in the war on Ukraine. Kyiv is attempting to retake portions of the south-east seized months ago by Russia, an area that includes the nuclear power plant. No one has yet been able to confirm the source of the rocket attack.