Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant does not face ‘Chernobyl-like situation’, official insists
At a briefing on Thursday, they described the circumstances at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility, which now lies in Russian-controlled territory, as “okay”.
“We are tracking that power plant, that facility, very closely. We all remember the inherent risks around nuclear sites,” they said.
“What I would say, talking more broadly about the nuclear situation, is that I don’t think it’s as dire as it’s being painted in the media at the moment.”
Speaking anonymously, the official was alluding to comments made by Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, who said earlier this week that the situation at the site was “completely out of control”.
While admitting that operating levels had degraded since Russia captured the area, the official insisted that the plant was still working “effectively”.
“We have seven pillars against which we score for safety and security of a nuclear site. At various times during a conflict all of those pillars have suffered. But none of them all at the same time,” they said.
“So we think overall, the circumstances of that site are still okay.”
The official also sought to play down the risk of the nuclear facility being damaged in a potential Ukrainian advance, saying that the area was so small that it could “be surrounded or bypassed” by Kyiv’s forces.
“I would bear in mind that nuclear power plants are designed to withstand terrorist attacks, including aircraft hitting reactors et cetera,” they added. “So please don’t think that we’re looking at a Chernobyl-like situation. That’s not the case.”
Their assessment came as powerful explosions rocked the nearby cities of Mykolaiv and Nikopol, according to the Ukrainian president’s office.
Such shelling puts Ukraine “in a difficult position” the Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, believes.
“Either Ukraine returns fire, risking international condemnation and a nuclear incident (which Ukrainian forces are unlikely to do), or Ukrainian forces allow Russian forces to continue firing on Ukrainian positions from an effective ‘safe zone’,” it said in its latest report.