Nov 20, 2022 - World

IAEA reports "powerful explosions" near Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in October 2022.

Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in October 2022. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine reported more than a dozen "powerful explosions" were heard near the nuclear plant Saturday night and Sunday morning, Rafael Grossi, IAEA's director general, said Sunday.

Why it matters: The explosions near the plant, which is Europe's largest nuclear power station, were from apparent shelling and ended a period of relative peace at the facility, the director said.

  • The IAEA said no causalities were reported, but information provided by the team managing the plant indicated that "buildings, systems and equipment" at the site were damaged — none of which were critical for the plant's safety or security.
  • It said members of its team at the plant "could also see some of the explosions from their windows."

What they're saying: “The news from our team yesterday and this morning is extremely disturbing. Explosions occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable," Grossi said.

  • Grossi did not attribute the explosions to either Russia or Ukraine, saying, "Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!”
  • The director again called on Russia and Ukraine to establish a nuclear safety and security zone around the plant "as soon as possible."

The big picture: Both countries had previously agreed to work with the IAEA on the safety zone but efforts to establish one have so far been unsuccessful.

  • The facility has been held by Russia since its forces seized it by force in March.
  • Shelling had been happening at Zaporizhzhia since early August but had recently calmed.
  • Russian military personnel and equipment have been stationed near the plant since the takeover despite calls from over 40 countries to remove them.
  • Russia had also briefly kidnapped and later released at least two of the plant's senior officials since the start of its occupation of the facility.
  • Energoatom, Ukraine's nuclear power plant operator, has said the kidnappings were intended to extract information about the Ukrainian personnel at the plant.

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