The UN nuclear watchdog said Ukraine narrowly escaped disaster during clashes that hit Europe’s largest atomic power plant over the weekend with a barrage of shells, some of which landed near reactors and damaged a radioactive waste landfill.
It was unclear which side was responsible for the explosions at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant shortly after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that whoever set fire to the factory was “taking huge risks and playing with many people’s lives”.
“We were lucky that there was no potentially serious nuclear incident. We may not be so lucky next time,” Grossi said late on Sunday.
Repeated bombings near the facility during the war raised concerns about a serious disaster in the country that suffered the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986.
Rosatom, head of Russia’s state nuclear energy agency, warned on Monday that there was a risk of a nuclear accident following the weekend’s rebombing at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, Tass news agency reported.
The IAEA said radiation levels remained normal and no casualties were reported. Grossi said that although there has been no direct impact on nuclear safety and protection systems, “the bombing is getting dangerously close to them.”
The bombardment comes as wars rage further east, following troop movements around the newly recaptured Kherson, further south across the Ukraine along the same Dnipro River where Zaporizhzhia is located.
Russia’s response to military failures has included a series of missile attacks on electrical installations that left much of the country without power when winter came and temperatures dropped below freezing.
The Zaporizhzhia plant and the area to its south have been under Russian control since March.
Both sides claimed responsibility for the latest bombing, as they have repeatedly done in recent months after attacks on or near the facility.