Ukraine's nuclear chief calls for military-free zone at Zaporizhzhia plant


FILE PHOTO: A view shows a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant compound, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 17, 2022. Press service of National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom/Handout via REUTERS

KYIV (Reuters) -The head of Ukraine's state nuclear power company Energoatom called on Monday for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to be made a military-free zone, warning of the risk of a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster after the site was hit by shelling.

He called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the site in comments on television after Ukraine and Russia accused each of shelling the nuclear power plant - Europe's biggest - which lies in Russian-controlled southern Ukraine.[nL1N2ZK03P]

"The decision that we demand from the world community and all our partners... is to withdraw the invaders from the territory of the station and create a demilitarized zone on the territory of the station," Petro Kotin said on television.

"The presence of peacekeepers in this zone and the transfer of control of it to them, and then also control of the station to the Ukrainian side would resolve this problem," he said.

Russian forces captured the plant in Ukraine's southeast in early March, shortly after Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbour, but it is still run by Ukrainian technicians.

Kotin flagged the risk of shelling hitting spent nuclear fuel containers as a particular danger.

"If one container of spent nuclear fuel is broken, it will be a local accident in the plant and the surrounding area," the top nuclear official said.

"If there are two or three containers, it will be much larger. It is impossible to assess the scale of this catastrophe."

He described the International Atomic Energy Agency's reaction to the situation at the site over the last five months as "sluggish", but said there were signs that that was changing.

"Now there is movement in their position, and we hope that the situation will be taken under the control of international organisations," he said.

Kotin said 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy machinery including tanks, trucks and armoured infantry vehicles were at the site.

The Ukrainian staff at the plant had nowhere to shelter, he said. Two people were wounded by shrapnel during the shelling and were in hospital.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Nick Macfie)

Article type: free
User access status:
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!
   

Next In World

Latvia prime minister wins election
Brazil votes in tense Lula-Bolsonaro presidential contest
Hurricane-ravaged Florida, Carolinas face daunting recovery
Tired of gridlock, Bulgarians vote in 4th election in less than two years
Ukraine celebrates recapturing key town, Putin ally raises nuclear jitters
US$10,000 for one Instagram post? How food influencers can make or break restaurants
Indonesia police say 127 people killed after stampede at football match
Australia expands sanctions against Russians
U.S. cheers Ukraine's "significant" battlefield success at Lyman
U.S. citizen allowed to leave Iranian prison for a week

Others Also Read