The Russian military detonated unexploded munitions left at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been told.
On Monday, Ukraine’s state nuclear operator, Energoatom, said that Russian forces “blew up part of the ammunition on the site of the Zaporizhzhia NPP [nuclear power plant] near the ruins of the training centre and power unit No 1”.
The following day, the IAEA cited Ukrainian regulators as saying that staff at Zaporizhzhya had “confirmed reports that the Russian military had detonated unexploded munitions left on the site following events on 4 March”.
Follow live updates on the war in Ukraine
The attack 11 days ago in which Russian forces seized Zaporizhzhia – Ukraine’s largest nuclear facility – raised fears of a radiation leak, as intense shelling saw a blaze break out at a training building in the vicinity of one of the plant’s reactor units.
Washington’s ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told United Nations delegates the following day that, “by the grace of God”, the world had “narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe” at the site.
While Russia is in control of the facility, Moscow’s atomic energy agency Rosatom said on Saturday that Zaporizhzhia is being run and managed by its Ukrainian staff, the RIA news agency reported.
But Ukraine’s communications centre claimed this week that staff had fled during the detonation of munitions, alleging that Russian forces “plan to continue carrying out explosions”.
And Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear operator, claimed on Monday that 11 representatives of Rosatom were present at the facility, saying on Telegram: “It is obvious that the detonation of ammunition on the site of the station is carried out with their direct participation.
“So it turns out that Rosatom is also involved in this terrorism.”
World news in pictures Show all 50 1 /50 World news in pictures World news in pictures 24 March 2022 Britain’s Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge ride in a vintage Land Rover used by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Jamaica Reuters World news in pictures 23 March 2022 The moon sets behind the Great Giewont peak in the Tatra Mountains, in Zakopane, southern Poland EPA World news in pictures 22 March 2022 A man holds his breath while he swims inside hot spring on the occasion of World Water Day outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia EPA World news in pictures 21 March 2022 Students hold white balloons during a demonstration against violence, after recent incidents between Thai rangers and suspected separatists, in Ra-ngae district in the southern Thai province of Narathiwat AFP/Getty World news in pictures 20 March 2022 Festival participants known as ‘Gilles,’ wearing traditional costumes and hats made of ostrich feathers, are dressed up for carnival celebrations in the streets of Strepy Bracquegnies, Belgium EPA World news in pictures 19 March 2022 Visitors dressed in period costumes walk near the Gate of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City in Beijing AP World news in pictures 18 March 2022 Twins are prepared for a newborn photo shoot by local photographer Fanny Nurdiana in Banda Aceh AFP/Getty World news in pictures 17 March 2022 President Joe Biden meets virtually with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington AP World news in pictures 16 March 2022 The moon sets behind a statue of William Penn atop of City Hall in Philadelphia AP World news in pictures 15 March 2022 Indian widows participate in the Holi festival in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India EPA World news in pictures 14 March 2022 A farmer works at a poppy field in the Zhari district of Kandahar AFP/Getty World news in pictures 13 March 2022 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with an injured man during a visit at a military hospital following fightings in the Kyiv region Getty World news in pictures 12 March 2022 ‘Choke on it !!!’ says the slogan of a carnival float showing a depiction of Russian President Putin as he swallows an object in the form and national colors of Ukraine EPA World news in pictures 11 March 2022 A young man kisses goodbye his girlfriend at Kyiv Main Railway Station as she tries to flee from Kyiv, Ukraine EPA World news in pictures 10 March 2022 The pack rides during the 5th stage of the 80th Paris – Nice cycling race AFP/Getty World news in pictures 9 March 2022 Houses inundated with floodwaters from an overflowing Hawkesbury River are pictured in the Windsor suburb of Sydney AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 8 March 2022 People shelter from fireworks before the traditional “torito” (little bull) made of paper, wood and fireworks during celebrations of San Juan de Dios in Tultepec on the outskirts of Mexico City AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 7 March 2022 People cross the destroyed bridge as they flee from the frontline town of Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine EPA World news in pictures 6 March 2022 A local resident reacts as a house is on fire after heavy shelling on the only escape route used by locals to leave the town of Irpin, while Russian troops advance towards the capital, 24km from Kyiv, Ukraine Reuters World news in pictures 5 March 2022 Austria’s Roman Rabl competing in the men’s downhil sitting para alpine skiing during the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in Yanqing OIS/IOC/AFP/Getty World news in pictures 4 March 2022 People remove personal belongings from a burning house after being shelled in the city of Irpin, outside Kyiv AFP/Getty World news in pictures 3 March 2022 An aerial view shows a residential building destroyed by shelling, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in the settlement of Borodyanka in the Kyiv region Reuters World news in pictures 2 March 2022 A man with his newborn child takes shelter in the basement of a perinatal centre as air raid siren sounds are heard amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv Reuters World news in pictures 1 March 2022 Members of an Ukrainian civil defense unit pass new assault rifles to the opposite side of a blown up bridge on Kyiv’s northern front AFP/Getty World news in pictures 28 February 2022 Members of the Ukrainian community of Rome collect basic necessities to be distributed to the Ukrainian population, at the church of Santa Sofia in Rome, Italy EPA World news in pictures 27 February 2022 Protesters crowd around the victory column and close to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to demonstrate for peace in Ukraine AFP/Getty World news in pictures 26 February 2022 The Swiss Air Force fly in front of the Weisshorn mountain in the Swiss Alps prior to the start of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Crans-Montana, Switzerland AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 25 February 2022 A Ukrainian firefighter walks between at fragments of a downed aircraft seen in in Kyiv AP World news in pictures 24 February 2022 Firefighters work on a building after bombings on the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv. Russian armed forces are trying to invade Ukraine from several directions, using rocket systems and helicopters to attack Ukrainian position in the south, the border guard service said AFP/Getty World news in pictures 23 February 2022 A woman wearing a face mask walks next to decorations at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand EPA World news in pictures 22 February 2022 Anganwadi workers take part in a protest march near Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence, demanding better facilities and working conditions for women AFP/ Getty World news in pictures 21 February 2022 An elderly woman stands in a street of the city of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine AFP/Getty World news in pictures 20 February 2022 High waves in Doolin in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland PA World news in pictures 19 February 2022 Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China in action in Beijing, China Reuters World news in pictures 17 February 2021 A part of a damaged wall crashes onto the pavement during a storm in Berlin, Germany AP World news in pictures 16 February 2022 Syrian firefighters extinguish fire following artillery shelling by the Syrian regime on a fuel depot affiliated to the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group in the northwestern rebel-held town of Dana AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 15 February 2022 Austria’s Cornelia Huetter competes in the womens downhill final during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre AFP/Getty World news in pictures 14 February 2022 A Taliban fighter directs traffic as a street vendor sells red heart-shaped balloons for Valentine’s Day, in Kabul, Afghanistan AP World news in pictures 13 February 2022 Russian Navy’s diesel-electric Kilo class submarine Rostov-on-Don sails with an naval ensign of the Russian Federation, also known in Russian as The Andreyevsky Flag on it through the Bosphorus Strait on the way to the Black Sea AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 12 February 2022 People participate in the Winter Snow Sports Festival in Kalam AFP/Getty World news in pictures 11 February 2022 A tank during joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus as part of an inspection of the Union State’s Response Force, at a firing range near Brest Russian Defence Ministry/AFP/Getty World news in pictures 10 February 2022 Multiple exposure photo of Magdalena Czyszczon of Poland during the Speed Skating warm up at the 2022 Beijing Olympics Reuters World news in pictures 9 February 2022 An Indian hand rickshaw puller waits for customers in front of a building displaying posters of different theater shows in Kolkata, India AP World news in pictures 8 February 2022 Starlings overfly Zaragoza, Spain EPA World news in pictures 7 February 2022 Performers dressed as superhero characters pose with a child receiving the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 at a gym in San Juan City, suburban Manila AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 6 February 2022 Cars stop before a flooded area, after Cyclone Batsirai made landfall, on a road in Vohiparara, Madagascar Reuters World news in pictures 5 February 2022 A woman carries a child as locals who were displaced by Cyclone Ana find refuge in an evacuation centre at the West Ankorondrano neighbourhood, Madagascar Reuters World news in pictures 4 February 2022 Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, at the National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, in Beijing AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 3 February 2022 Italian Air Force aerobatic display team, the Frecce Tricolori, perform during the inauguration of the president of the Italian Republic, in Rome. Sergio Mattarella was elected for a second term EPA World news in pictures 2 February 2022 Italian athletes during training ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics Reuters
While the training facility was damaged on 4 March, IAEA director-general Raphael Mariano Grossi said that “all the safety systems of the six reactors at the plant were not affected at all”.
Multiple nuclear experts also said that the shelling had been unlikely to trigger a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster, while there is not known to have been any change in radiation levels at the site.
The IAEA, which reports to the United Nations, also announced on Tuesday that it had been informed by Ukrainian regulators that the Chernobyl nuclear plant had been re-connected to the national electricity grid – and no longer relied on emergency diesel generators for power.
The site of the world’s worst nuclear accident lost all off-site power last Wednesday and was forced to resort to diesel fuel for back-up electricity, but over the weekend Ukrainian specialist teams succeeded managed to repair one of two damaged lines linking the plant to the power network, the IAEA said.
But the agency warned that the site’s 211 technical personnel and guards have not been able to rotate since the day before the Russian forces entered the area, in effect living there for the past three weeks.
Mr Grossi said they were working “under enormous stress without the necessary rest”, with the Ukrainian regulator saying there was no information whether and when a shift change would be possible.
It added that the Ukrainian regulator had said “for the first time today” that information it received regarding Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya was “controlled by the Russian military forces” and therefore it could not “always provide detailed answers to all’ of the IAEA’s questions”.
The challenging staffing situation and now-addressed power cuts at Chernobyl underscore the urgency of agreeing and implementing an IAEA initiative aimed at ensuring the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, Mr Grossi said.