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Ukraine's nuclear chief warns of 'very high' risks at occupied power plant

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View of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during the Ukraine-Russia conflict outside Enerhodar, Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Region, 4 August, 2022.

Ukraine's head of state for nuclear power warned Tuesday (9 August) about the "very high" risk of Russian shelling at Zaporizhzhia in the Russian-occupied South. He said that it was crucial Kyiv regains control of the facility before winter.

Petro Kotin from Energoatom, the chief of the company, said that Russian shelling last week had damaged three lines connecting the Zaporizhzhia facility to the Ukrainian grid, and that Russia was interested in linking the facility to its grid.

Russia and Ukraine have been accused of each other's shelling of the Russian-controlled site of the huge nuclear power station, Europe's largest, that is located in Ukraine.

Kotin stated that some of the shelling was found near spent fuel storage facilities, which contain 174 containers of radioactive material. He warned of the dangers of their being struck.

"This is... the most radioactive material within all the nuclear power plants. He explained that this would mean the distribution of it around the place. Then we will have a radiation cloud, and then the weather will decide... where the cloud goes."

He stated that "the risk is very high".

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Kotin stated that Russia wanted to connect it to its grid. This is a technically challenging process and requires the facility to be disconnected from the Ukrainian system in order to make the connection to the Russian one.

"Their goal is to destroy all lines from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. He stated that the Ukrainian power grid will be disconnected from it after that.

He said that the nuclear plant had six reactors and provided electricity for 20-21% of Ukraine's electricity requirements before the war. He said that it urgently requires renovations.

"For the winter season, we urgently have to remove these Russians there, then to rebuild infrastructure," he said.

He said that around 500 Russian troops were currently stationed at the facility, with heavy vehicles. The plant is being used for a base.

Kotin stated that the best solution was for Russian troops to leave and the plant to be handed back to Ukraine. He suggested that peacekeepers could be sent to the site to protect it.

"The best solution is to get rid of all soldiers and their weapons from the site. This solves the safety problem at the Zaporizhzhia plant," he stated.

However, he warned that there were no safety guarantees for inspectors from International Atomic Energy Agency who traveled to the site. It was occupied in March.

He said that this type of trip is best made with the United Nations.

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