A Russian serviceman patrols near the nuclear power plant A Russian serviceman patrols near the nuclear power plant 

UN chief warns of nuclear disaster in Ukraine

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged international inspectors to be given access to the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine, amid UN concerns of a possible nuclear disaster.

By Stefan J. Bos 

Ukrainian state nuclear power company Enerhoatom said 500 Russian soldiers are at Europe's largest nuclear plant. And it claims Russia has positioned rocket launchers there.

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling the site in the south-eastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia. 

Ukrainian authorities said parts of the nuclear power plant are seriously damaged and that there is an increased risk of fire and radiation. 

Russian troops have occupied the facility since March. The United States has accused Russia of using the nuclear site to shield its forces. 

Moscow has denied wrongdoing. 

The reported clashes around the site prompted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to warn of "the very real risk of a nuclear disaster." 

‘Nuclear suicide’

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres shared the concerns of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, saying IAEA inspectors should be given access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. "Any attack on a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing. I hope those attacks will end, and at the same time, I hope that the IAEA will be able to access the plant,” he said. 

Guterres spoke in Japan, where he visited Hiroshima over the weekend to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing, which resulted in 140,000 deaths. 

The bombing by the U.S. military of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, was followed by the bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August of that year, instantly killing more than 75,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later, ending World War Two.

With Ukraine now at war, Guterres wants to prevent another nuclear disaster that could potentially harm many people across Europe and beyond. 

Despite rising concerns over the nuclear dangers surrounding Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there was some hopeful news: Two more ships loaded with grain set sail from Ukraine's Black Sea ports taking the total to ten since the first vessel sailed last week amid efforts to feed a growing number of hungry people. 

It's part of a deal on secure maritime grain exports with Russia, brokered by the U.N. and Turkey. 

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08 August 2022, 16:53