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Ukraine’s nuclear company Energoatom on Saturday said there is an increased risk of a dangerous hydrogen or radioactive leak at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) after it was damaged by shelling in recent weeks.
“As a result of periodic shelling, the infrastructure of the power plant has been damaged, there are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is high,” the nuclear agency said in a statement.
Shelling on or near the ZNPP has increasingly threatened Ukraine’s nuclear security in recent weeks and officials have warned that damage to Europe’s largest nuclear plant could prompt a catastrophe greater than the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Earlier this week two of the plants reactors were disconnected from the power grid when power lines were damaged by shelling and emergency protection systems were triggered.
Ukrainian workers – who have continued operating the site despite Russia’s occupation since March – were able to restore a “stable power supply” to the plant Saturday and reconnected it to Ukraine’s power grid.
Ukraine and Russia have laid the blame on one another for damage caused to the nuclear power plant, but Kyiv and the international community have argued that the threat of nuclear catastrophe remains so long as Russian forces continue to occupy the Ukrainian nuclear plant.
“Due to the presence of the Russian military, their weapons, equipment and explosives at the power plant, there are serious risks for the safe operation of the ZNPP,” Energoatom said Saturday.
The nuclear agency said Russian forces have “increased the pressure” on Ukrainian staff operating the site “to prevent them from disclosing evidence about the crimes of the occupiers at the plant and its use as a military base.”
Reports on Saturday began to surface that Russian troops have “tortured” the plant’s personnel ahead of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s visit as the U.N. looks to secure the site.
“Ukraine calls on the world community to take immediate measures to force Russia to liberate the ZNPP and transfer the power plant to the control of our country for the sake of the security of the whole world,” Energoatom said.