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    Russia-Ukraine war: military activity around the Zaporiyia nuclear plant increases, renewing fears of potential catastrophe

    March 30, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras


      In the midst of the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus ordered by Vladimir Putin, a new cause for concern was added to the conflict that Russia and Ukraine have been waging for more than a year. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Argentine Rafael Grossi, warned about the growth of military activity around Zaporiyia, the largest nuclear plant in Europe.

      Grossi is in Ukraine as part of the agency's preventive actions in the midst of the Russian invasion. Present in Dnipro, a city located in the east of the country, the specialist pointed out that the situation is not improving in Zaporiyia, occupied by Russian troops. The IAEA director, who had already said in September that the situation was "unsustainable", affirmed that "military activity is increasing".

      Grossi se reunió esta semana con Zelensky.

      In declarations to CNN, Grossi maintained that the situation is very worrying. "There is an increasing number of troops and military vehicles, heavy artillery and more military action around the plant," he said. He also indicated that the plant has been suffering blackouts "repeatedly".

      Grossi advanced that he will cross "in a few hours the front line" to approach Zaporiyia, just as they did last year. "I will continue my consultations to try to establish protection around the plant and avoid a nuclear accident with possible catastrophic consequences," he said.

      It will be the second time that the agency's director general, accompanied by a group of experts, the seventh of its kind since the support mission began work at the plant, will visit Europe's largest nuclear power plant and the first since the deployment of the IAEA's permanent presence last September 1.

      "I want to see the situation for myself and talk to the operational managers of the plant, who are under Russian command," Grossi said.

      Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky visited positions near the front line in the Zaporiyia region on Monday and met on that occasion with Grossi, with whom he also shared the situation at the Dnieper hydropower plant.

      Grossi - who was re-elected as head of the international agency - noted over the weekend that his trip also seeks to ensure a regular rotation of IAEA experts to and from the power plant following problems that affected the February rotation, delayed by almost a month.

      "At risk".

      The Zaporiyia power plant has recently suffered several power outages that affected its operation. In fact, on March 9, the giant power plant, occupied by the Russian army, was cut off from the Ukrainian power grid for 11 hours following a Russian attack.

      Diesel generators were switched on to provide minimum power to the safety systems, according to the state-owned atomic energy company Energoatom, which warned of the risk of a nuclear accident. "We are playing with fire," Grossi had warned at the time.

      The high representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, repudiated the situation. "It is a serious violation of nuclear safety caused by Russia. Zaporiyia is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and Russia is endangering the safety of the entire European continent."

      Without electricity from these generators, overheating of the reactor fuel could lead to a nuclear accident, a scenario similar to that of the Fukushima plant in Japan in 2011.

      The plant is located in the town of Energodar on the Dnieper. It has six of Ukraine's 15 reactors, capable of supplying four million households with electricity. Its six Soviet-built VVER-1000 reactors were commissioned between 1984 and 1995, with a total output of 6,000 MW.

      ARCHIVO - Un soldado ruso monta guardia en un área de la planta nuclear de Zaporiyia, Ucrania, en territorio bajo control ruso, el 1 de mayo de 2022. (AP Foto)

      Before the Russian invasion, it generated about a quarter of Ukraine's electricity. The country, which has significant uranium reserves, is the world's seventh largest producer of nuclear energy, according to the IAEA.

      The site, close to the Crimean peninsula (annexed by Russia in 2014), was seized by Russian troops on March 4, a few days after the start of the invasion on February 24. Since then, the facility suffered "significant damage" and subsequently "the physical integrity" of the site was "violated" repeatedly, the IAEA denounced.


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