The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called on Tuesday (September 6) for fighting to be halted in a security zone around Europe’s biggest nuclear power station, saying its experts had found extensive damage at the plant on the front in the Ukraine war.
A long-awaited report did not ascribe blame for damage to the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant, which Russia and Ukraine each accuse each other of shelling. But it said that unless the shooting stops there would be a risk of disaster.
The plant, seized by Russia shortly after its invasion of Ukraine, is controlled by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian technicians. It sits at the frontline on a Russian-held bank of a huge reservoir with Ukrainian positions across the water.
“The IAEA is ready to start immediately the consultations leading to the urgent establishment of such a nuclear safety and security protection sone at the ZNPP,” the IAEA wrote.
Inspectors said they had found Russian troops and equipment at the plant, including military vehicles parked in turbine halls. Moscow has denied accusations that it used the plant as a shield for its forces, but says it has troops guarding it.
IAEA inspectors led by the agency’s chief, Rafael Grossi, braved shelling to cross the front line and reach Zaporozhzhia last week. Two experts have stayed on to maintain a long-term presence at the site.
Earlier on Tuesday, blasts rang out and power was cut in the city surrounding the plant, Enerhodar, according to Dmytro Orlov, the Ukrainian mayor who operates from outside Russian-held territory. Moscow repeated its longstanding accusations that Ukrainian forces had been shelling the plant.
Kyiv says it is Russia that has been staging such incidents, to undermine international support for Ukraine and as a possible pretext to cut the plant from the Ukrainian power grid and steal its output. Russia has so far spurned international pleas to pull its forces back from the site and demilitarise the area.
The IAEA report listed areas of the plant that had been damaged, including a building housing nuclear fuel, a facility for storing radioactive waste, and a building housing an alarm system. It said the power station had been cut off several times from offsite power supplies critical to safe operation, and called for an end to all military activity that might interrupt power.
Grossi is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council in New York on his findings later on Tuesday.