Russia and Ukraine are exchanging allegations that both sides are shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
Russia claimed on Monday that Ukrainian shelling caused a surge and fire and forced staff to lower the power of two reactors, while Ukraine has accused Russian troops of storing weapons there.
Nuclear experts have warned that another shelling of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which was captured by Russia at the beginning of the war, is fraught with danger. The Kremlin repeated this statement on Monday, claiming that the Ukrainian shelling could have “catastrophic” consequences for Europe.
Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov countered that Russian forces planted explosives at the facility to deter an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive in the region.
Earlier, Ukrainian officials said Russia is launching attacks from factories and using Ukrainian workers as human shields.
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Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has warned that the way the plant is being operated amid Russian forces and the fighting around it poses serious health and environmental risks.
But a nuclear materials expert at Imperial College London said the Zaporizhia reactor is modern and housed in a heavily reinforced steel and concrete building designed to withstand disasters.
“As such, I do not believe that there would be a high probability of the containment building rupturing even if accidentally hit by an explosive shell, and even less likely that the reactor itself could be damaged as a result,” said Mark Wenman Nuclear College Energy Futures.
He also said that the spent fuel tanks that the shells allegedly hit are strong and likely don’t contain much spent fuel.
“While it may seem worrisome and any combat at a nuclear site would be illegal under international law, the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still remote,” he said.
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Prior to Sunday’s shelling, the nuclear power plant also came under fire last week.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that Sunday’s Ukrainian attack caused a power surge and smoke in its switchgear, triggering an emergency shutdown.
Fire crews doused the blazes, and plant personnel reduced the power of reactors #5 and #6 to 500 megawatts, he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on the western powers to force Kyiv to stop attacking the plant.
“The shelling of the territory of the nuclear power plant by the Ukrainian armed forces is extremely dangerous,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.
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“It is fraught with catastrophic consequences for vast areas, for all of Europe.”
But Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, said the shelling came from Russian forces.
“If it’s not,” he added, “if it doesn’t reflect reality, the Russians can make a goodwill gesture and hand over control of the facility to an international commission and the IAEA, if not to the Ukrainian military.” .”
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Yusov said Russia used similar tactics at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant when they occupied it earlier in the war.
“This is a terror and scorched earth strategy being employed by the Russians ahead of an inevitable Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of the ships that left Ukraine under a deal to free up grain supplies and avert a global food crisis reached Turkey, becoming the first ship to reach its destination.
Three more grain ships are leaving Ukrainian ports under a UN deal
The Turkish-flagged Polarnet, loaded with 12,000 tons of corn, docked in Chornomorsk at the port of Derince on Friday.
“This sends a message of hope to every family in the Middle East, Africa and Asia: Ukraine will not let you down,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted. “If Russia honors its commitments, the ‘grain corridor’ will maintain global food security.”
Polarnet Captain Ahmet Yucel Alibeyler highlighted the risks faced by grain transport vessels attempting to cross the Black Sea.
“These were obviously dangerous areas, corridors that had been cleared and demined,” he said.
On the frontlines of the war, the Kremlin reiterated Monday that Russia would continue its military attacks on Ukraine until it achieved its goals.
The Presidential Office of Ukraine said the Russians had shelled seven Ukrainian regions in the past 24 hours, killing five people.
Ukrainian forces attacked Russian-controlled areas in the south, local officials said, once again hitting a strategic bridge in the southern city of Kherson.
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The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, a Russian-controlled city in the neighboring Zaporizhia region, said Ukraine had used US HIMARS rocket launchers to shell several facilities where the Russian military was stationed.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Moscow-appointed Kherson region administration, said Ukrainian shelling again damaged the Antonivsky bridge over the Dnieper. The bridge, an artery for Russian military supplies, has been closed in recent weeks over previous shelling, and plans to reopen it on Wednesday have now been put on hold, Stremousov said.
Russian forces continued shelling Nikopol, which is located just across the Dnieper from the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the Presidential Office of Ukraine said.
Nikopol’s gas, water and electricity lines have stopped working, leaving thousands of people without electricity.
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A total of 12 ships have now been authorized to sail under the Ukraine-Russia grain deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations – 10 outbound and two inbound.
Around 322,000 tons of agricultural products left Ukrainian ports, mostly corn, but also sunflower oil and soybeans.
Four ships that left Ukraine on Sunday are expected to anchor near Istanbul on Monday evening for an inspection on Tuesday to ensure they only have food and no weapons on board.
However, the first cargo ship to leave Ukraine, the Sierra Leonean-flagged Razoni, which left Odessa on August 1, had a snag. It was en route to Lebanon with 26,000 tons of corn for chicken feed but got into a business dispute and will no longer dock there, the Tripoli port chief said.
The Ukrainian embassy in Beirut tweeted Monday that the final buyer of the corn in Lebanon refused to take delivery of the cargo due to a delay in delivery and that the carrier was looking for another customer.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/9044777/zaporizhzhia-nuclear-power-station-shelling/ Ukraine’s nuclear power plant faces renewed shelling as Kyiv warns of Russian ‘scorched earth’ – National