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The International Atomic Energy Agency has called for a security perimeter around Europe’s largest atomic power plant and for shelling to stop immediately to avoid a potential nuclear disaster.
Inspectors from the United Nations’ nuclear agency led by director general Rafael Grossi made the recommendation on Tuesday following a long-awaited visit last weekend to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP).
“Shelling on site and in its vicinity should be stopped immediately to avoid any further damages to the plant” and “for the safety of the operating staff,” a report following the IAEA’s inspection of the plant said.
“This requires agreement by all relevant parties to the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP,” it said.
Zaporizhia, which has been occupied by Russian forces for months and has been fully disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid since Monday following bombardments in the area, has been struck with shelling attacks that Russia and Ukraine blame each other for, raising the risk of nuclear disaster.
“Ukrainian staff operating the plant under Russian military occupation are under constant high stress and pressure, especially with the limited staff available,” the report said, warning that “this is not sustainable and could lead to increased human error with implications for nuclear safety.”
The IAEA outlined seven recommendations to avert a nuclear disaster at the plant, with the safety zone being the priority.
While the shelling “has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency,” the report said, it still represents a “constant threat to nuclear safety and security because critical safety functions (containment of the radioactivity and cooling in particular) could be impacted.”
In addition to the safety recommendations, the document confirms the presence of Russian military material inside the plant and the presence of personnel from the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, something which the IAEA criticized.
“The team observed the presence of Russian military personnel, vehicles and equipment at various places at the ZNPP, including several military trucks on the ground floor of the Unit 1 and Unit 2 turbine halls,” the agency said, calling for the removal of the military equipment as it interferes with safety operations at the plant.
The IAEA also criticized the presence of Rosatom personnel as it “could lead to interference with the normal lines of operational command or authority and create potential frictions when it comes to decision-making.”