Zurich: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised grave concerns about shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, saying the action showed the risk of a nuclear disaster.

Both sides accused each other of engaging in “nuclear terrorism” on Saturday (Ukraine time) a day after the shelling. Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom blamed Russia for the damage while Russia’s defence ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the plant.

A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control.Credit:AP

“I’m extremely concerned by the shelling yesterday at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster,” the international agency’s director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

Grossi, who leads the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, urged all sides in the Ukraine conflict to exercise the “utmost restraint” around the plant.

Shells hit a high-voltage power line on Friday (Ukraine time) at the facility, prompting its operators to disconnect a reactor despite no radioactive leak being detected. The plant was captured by Russian forces in early March in the opening stage of the war but it is still run by its Ukrainian technicians.

Energoatom said Russia wanted to disconnect the station from the Ukrainian electricity system and cause blackouts in the south of the country. Moscow’s forces, it said, had placed weapons and explosives in two of the power-generating units and mined the shoreline outside the plant.

“It is highly probable that all of this will cause a nuclear and radiation disaster,” it said in a statement.

Russia’s defence ministry said damage to the plant had only been avoided thanks to the “skilful, competent and effective actions” of its units.

Grossi said that military action jeopardising the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia plant “is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs”.

Foreign ship

A foreign-flagged ship arrived in Ukraine on Saturday for the first time since the war started in February, and will be loaded with grain, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said.

Ukraine is starting to resume grain exports in an effort overseen by a Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. personnel are working.

Kubrakov said the Barbados-flagged general cargo ship Fulmar S was in the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk.

“We are doing (everything) possible to ensure that our ports can receive and handle more vessels. In particular, we plan to reach the level of at least three to five vessels per day in two weeks’ (time),” he wrote on Facebook.

Ukraine eventually aims to ship out 3 million tonnes a month from its Black Sea ports, he said.

Roughly 20 million tonnes of grain from last year’s crops are still stuck in the country.

Reuters

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