Major security alert at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is like a red light flashing (Image: Reuters / Getty)

The safety of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been compared to a “red light flashing” after Russian troops occupied the site in Ukraine.

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued the grim warning after struggling to gain access to the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine.

Rafael Grossi says he has requested that experts be allowed to enter the plant at Enerhodar, which is among the ten largest nuclear power plants in the world, to carry out important repairs amid apparent damage from fighting.

He also wants his inspectors to re-establish links with the Vienna-based headquarters of his UN agency.

Speaking a day after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he confirmed that the facility ‘requires repairs’.

‘All this is not happening,’ Mr Grossi warned earlier today.

So the situation as I have described it and I will repeat it today is not tenable as it is.

A photo shows a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the middle of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on this distribution photo released March 17, 2022.

The exterior of the building in a photo released the same day (Photo: Reuters)

Six power units generate 40-42 billion kWh of electricity, making the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant the largest nuclear power plant not only in Ukraine but also in Europe, Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia Region, Southeastern Ukraine, July 9, 2019. Ukrinform.  (Photo credit should read Dmytro Smolyenko / Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Russian has repeatedly been accused of dangerous behavior on nuclear power plants (Image: Getty Images)

‘So this is a pending question. This is a red light flashing. ‘

Pictures of the site, released last month, appear to show a black building with broken windows.

An internal image of a building, pictured on March 17, shows crushed debris inside a heavily damaged room.

It comes after a series of radioactive disasters in Chernobyl during Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

An interior image shows a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the middle of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this distribution image released March 17, 2022.

A damaged building at the factory in a photo released on March 17 (Photo: Reuters)

A view shows the interior of a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the middle of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this distribution image published March 16, 2022. Press service from National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom / Distribution via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE IS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.  MANDATORY CREDIT.

Damage to the connection appears to be significant (Photo: Reuters)

The site of the world’s most famous nuclear disaster was taken over by Russian forces early in the war, where nuclear experts were forced to work grueling shifts in an attempt to keep the site safe while under military occupation.

But Putin’s forces are accused of digging trenches at the site, where many soldiers are showing signs of radiation sickness.

They are also believed to have used tanks at the site and flown planes over it, disrupting radioactive materials.

One day after the 36th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the IAEA now says it needs cooperation from both Russia and Ukraine to improve the situation in Zaporizhzhia.

A view shows the interior of a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the middle of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this distribution image published March 16, 2022. Press service from National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom / Distribution via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE IS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.  MANDATORY CREDIT.

Some sections have been reduced to rubble (Image: Reuters)

This satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC shows the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022.

The plant is in Enerhodar, southern Ukraine (Photo: AP)

Sir. Grossi said: “Understandably, my Ukrainian colleagues do not want the IAEA inspectors to go to one of their own facilities under the authority of a third power.

‘I had a long conversation about this with President Zelenskyy last night and it is something that will still require consultations. We are not there yet. ‘

The IAEA chief says he continues to push the Russian government for access.

But ahead of a meeting with the Russians ‘soon’, he added: ‘I can not see movement in that direction as we speak.’

Sir. Grossi continued: ‘There are two units that are active, in active operation, as you know, others that are under repair or cooling.

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‘And there are some activities, technical activities and also inspection activities that need to be carried out.’

With 15 reactors and one of the largest nuclear power capacities in the world, the war has essentially turned parts of Ukraine into a nuclear minefield.

Nuclear experts have repeatedly been appalled that Russian forces are getting uncomfortably close to several nuclear power plants in the country.

On Monday, Russian cruise missiles flew over the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant in western Ukraine.

“There can be no military action in or around a nuclear power plant,” Mr Grossi pleaded, adding that he has appealed to Russia on the issue.

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