The head of the United Nations nuclear agency said this week that “every principle of nuclear safety has been violated” at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which was occupied by Russian forces shortly after they invaded Ukraine in February.
The official, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said in an interview on Tuesday with The Associated Press that conditions at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, in southeastern Ukraine, were getting more perilous by the day, calling the situation “out of control.” He had previously described reported conditions at the complex as very disturbing.
“What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely grave and dangerous,” said Mr. Grossi, who is the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He cited as particular concerns insecurity, a lack of respect for the physical safety of the plant and the treatment of workers.
Fighting around the complex caused a fire that stoked global concerns about a possible nuclear accident. Another nuclear plant in Ukraine, Chernobyl, was the site of the worst nuclear accident in history, in 1986. While Russian forces held Chernobyl, in northern Ukraine, at the start of the conflict, it is now back in Ukrainian hands.
Since March, Russia has built up its forces at the Zaporizhzhia plant, on the banks of the Dnipro River, effectively turning it into a fortress. The facility is close to the Ukrainian-held city of Nikopol, on the river’s west bank.
In recent weeks, Russian forces have been firing artillery from the cover of the power plant’s grounds, sending rockets over the river at Nikopol and other targets, Ukrainian officials say. Ukrainian forces have been unable to respond effectively given the proximity of the nuclear plant for fear of harming the broad safety systems around it.
Though controlled by Russian troops, the plant is still staffed by Ukrainian experts and workers, and some have fled, complaining of stressful working conditions.
The exiled mayor of the nearby city of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said Russian soldiers have subjected some of the plant’s workers to harsh interrogations, including torture with electric shocks, suspecting them of sabotage or of informing the Ukrainian military about activities at the plant. About a dozen workers also have vanished after being abducted, Mr. Orlov has said.
Mr. Grossi told The A.P. that there was a “catalog of things that should never be happening in any nuclear facility.” He added that it was essential that the nuclear agency be allowed to go there to evaluate safety and security and to do repairs.