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Nuclear Plant

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, shown here on July 9, 2019, is the largest such station in Europe. (Photo: Dmytro Smolyenko/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

UN Demands Demilitarized Zone After Latest Zaporizhzhia Shelling

The head of the IAEA warned the forces responsible for the strikes at the largest nuclear plant in Europe are "playing with fire."

Julia Conley

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency repeated a demand that the area surrounding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine be established as a demilitarized zone on Sunday, after at least a dozen shells exploded at the plant.

Reports of the shellings were "extremely disturbing," Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement.

"Explosions occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable," said Grossi. "Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you're playing with fire!"

"Explosions occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable."

Russian forces have been occupying the plant and stationing military equipment there since March, following President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Strikes at the plant, which have been reported intermittently since the Russians seized the facility, have sparked fears of a nuclear accident, which experts say could spread radioactive material across Europe. So far no radiation leaks have been reported.

The Ukrainian state nuclear company, Energoatom, reported that Sunday morning's shelling damaged water storage tanks and a steam purge generator system.

All of the reactors at Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, have been shut down this year as a precaution, but previous shelling has damaged the plant's power supply, which could cause nuclear fuel to overheat.

"I'm not giving up until [a demilitarized] zone has become a reality," Grossi said Sunday. "As the ongoing apparent shelling demonstrates, it is needed more than ever."

Ukrainian and Russian nuclear authorities each blamed the other side for the most recent strikes.

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