UN tries to access Ukraine’s nuclear power plant after ‘suicide’ bombing.
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United Nations inspectors are trying to gain access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex in Ukraine, where Russia and Ukrainian authorities have traded blame for artillery strikes that the UN warns could lead to a “nuclear disaster”.
“Any attack (on) a nuclear power plant is a suicidal thing,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference on Monday, according to Reuters.
Guterres’ comments come as Ukraine has warned of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe at the plant and called for a demilitarized zone to be declared, with international monitors fearing an accident after two days of fighting at the plant that is occupied by Russian forces.
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Ukraine has launched a counter-offensive in the southern region of the country where the plant is located after Russian forces concentrated their forces on gains made in the area, leading to fighting around the plant. The rockets landed near a high-voltage power line during Friday’s fighting and struck near a dry storage facility on Saturday. The shelling also damaged radiation monitoring sensors near the facility.
“A nuclear catastrophe was miraculously averted this time, but miracles cannot last forever,” Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom said, according to the Washington Post.
Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the strikes, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for a “stronger response from the international community”.
The situation at the plant has experts fearing the worst. Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball warned that buildings around a nuclear facility are not designed to withstand military attack.
“This is particularly dangerous because these buildings are not constructed of the same type of reinforced concrete as the reactor containment building,” Kimball told the Washington Post. “These sites were not designed as fortresses against external missile or artillery attacks.”
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Kimball warned that a sustained loss of power at the plant could also turn deadly, noting that these power plants have “a certain number of days that they have backup diesel power generation.”
“This is the first time in the history of the nuclear age that a major nuclear power facility for a sustained period of time has been in the middle of an active war zone,” Kimball said.