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The UN’s nuclear watchdog is warning of a possible disaster at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia plant

The US nuclear watchdog agency is urging Russian and Ukrainian leaders to produce a “security protection zone” around Europe’s largest nuclear power station after inspectors found harm to a building that stores “fresh nuclear fuel and the solid radioactive waste.”

Why it matters: In a report published Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said “there’s an urgent dependence on interim measures to avoid a nuclear accident” at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which includes been damaged by shelling in Russia’s ongoing assault.

  • The agency also said its inspectors had to evacuate and shelter within an administrative building throughout their visit once they “closely witnessed shelling in the vicinity” of the nuclear facility.

What they’re saying: “As the ongoing shelling have not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to represent a continuing threat to nuclear security and safety with potential effect on critical safety functions that could result in radiological consequences with great safety significance,” the report reads.

  • “The IAEA recommends that shelling on site and in its vicinity ought to be stopped immediately in order to avoid any more damages to the plant and associated facilities, for the safety of the operating staff also to keep up with the physical integrity to aid safe and sound operation,” it continues.
  • “This involves agreement by all relevant parties to the establishment of a nuclear security and safety protection zone round the [Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant].”

Background: IAEA director general Rafael Grossi said on Monday that four agency experts left the plant as planned while two others were staying “to keep up an ongoing IAEA presence at the website, enabling the Agency to see the problem there and offer independent assessments.”

  • He said Ukrainian officials informed the agency that the plant again lost link with the Ukrainian power grid due to a fire near its last remaining transmission line, though “its sole operating reactor” continued to create the electricity necessary for cooling along with other nuclear safety functions.

The picture as a whole: Russian forces experienced a military presence at or close to the plant since seizing it in March, though it really is still operated by its Ukrainian staff.

  • Ukraine and Russia have blamed one another for shelling round the plant and also have accused one another of planning “false flag” attacks onto it.
  • Numerous countries and international organizations have condemned the recent military activity near Zaporizhzhia and also have called on Russia to eliminate its military personnel and weaponry from the plant.

Go deeper: Zelensky says Russian forces using Zaporizhzhia plant as “nuclear weapon”

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