The UN nuclear watchdog has sounded alarm over the fragile situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russia, and called for an urgent need for “interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident”.
The warning comes in the wake of a spurt in attacks in the vicinity ever since it fell under the control of the Russian troops in March.
“The current situation is untenable,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report after it sent inspectors to the plant last week.
“There is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident… This can be achieved by the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone.”
Later in an interview to CNN, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, who recently returned from a visit to the nuclear plant, said that the situation continues to be “very worrying” and warned “we are playing with fire.”
Speaking from Vienna, Director General Rafael Grossi called for the deployment of a safety zone around the Russian-held site amid sustained shelling.
“What is urgently needed, now, today, is that we agree on establishing a protection (if you want), a shield, a bubble around the perimeter of the facility,” Grossi was quoted as saying.
The IAEA chief further said that he would quickly consult with the relevant stakeholders to “establish an interim measure” because “what we need desperately is to protect this nuclear plant because it is being shelled.”
“Now the IAEA has been there, we have corroborated what is happening. 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,” he added.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling at the site, despite the watchdog’s recommendations.
As per the Russian defence ministry, radiation levels around the plant are normal.
Last week, the IAEA sent a 14-person team to the site for inspection. It has stationed two members at the site on a permanent basis to ensure the facility’s safety.
(With inputs from agencies)
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