Ukraine Accuses Russia Of ‘Nuclear Terror’ Amid Fighting Near Europe’s Largest Nuclear Plant


Ukraine is calling for a stronger response from the international community after accusing Russia of once again shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant—the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine—just after the International Atomic Energy Agency warned more fighting near the site could run “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster.”

Key Facts

Ukraine’s state nuclear power authority said Russia fired rockets at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and the nearby town of Enerhodar on Saturday night, as Russian forces appeared to strike near the site’s dry storage facility where casks of spent nuclear fuel are kept.

Three of the site’s radiation monitoring detectors were damaged in the attacks, which would make detecting and responding to any radiation leakage from the plant’s spent fuel storage “currently impossible,” the power authority said.

One power plant employee was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds, according to the statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Sunday morning tweet Saturday’s “nuclear terror” attack warrants “a stronger response” from the international community, and suggested sanctions on the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel.

The Zaporizhzhia site—which is occupied by Russian forces but still manned by Ukranian staff—was previously shelled on Friday, which Russia blamed on Ukrainian forces, according to Reuters.

Key Background

Following Friday’s strikes on the nuclear power plant, IAEA General Director Rafael Grossi said he was “extremely concerned” by the attacks, which could have “potentially catastrophic consequences” and pose a threat to the environment and public health well beyond Ukraine. The Russian military took over Zaporizhzhia in March during an attack that caused a fire at the plant’s training building, which was condemned by countries around the world, with the U.S. embassy in Ukraine calling it a war crime. The power plant’s six reactors remained undamaged, according to Ukraine, though an NPR analysis found the shelling came close to severely damaging the reactors. The Institute for the Study of War, a D.C.-based think tank, argued last week Russian forces may be using the plant “to play on Western fears of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine, likely in an effort to degrade Western will to provide military support to a Ukrainian counteroffensive.”

Crucial Quote

“Military action jeopardizing the safety and security of the Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs,” Grossi said in a statement Saturday.