Experts from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency are once again warning of "a potential threat to nuclear safety" at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after hearing explosions there over the past week, APA reports citing CNN.
The plant – which is the largest of its kind in Europe – is located along the banks of the Dnipro River, next to the town of Enerhodar. It has been under full Russian control since March of last year but is operated mostly by Ukrainian staff, who were initially forced to work by invading Russian troops.
Experts from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency are stationed at the plant and "have reported hearing numerous explosions over the past week, in a possible sign of increased military activity in the region that could also pose a potential threat to nuclear safety and security at the site," Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement Friday.
"Just over a year after the IAEA established a permanent presence at Europe's largest nuclear power plant (NPP) to help prevent an accident there during the conflict in Ukraine, the overall situation at the facility remains highly precarious," Grossi wrote.
The director general said the IAEA team heard about two dozen explosions over the course of last Saturday, Sunday and Monday, followed by several more during "the last few days."
Reports indicate the explosions occurred "some distance away" from the plant, Grossi said. "Nevertheless, I remain deeply concerned about the possible dangers facing the plant at this time of heightened military tension in the region," he wrote.
"Whatever happens in a conflict zone wherever it may be, everybody would stand to lose from a nuclear accident, and I urge that all necessary precautions must be taken to avoid it happening," Grossi said.
Power plant staff told the watchdog agency that more drone strikes hit Enerhodar, where many employees live with their families, on Thursday morning, according to the statement. No casualties were reported.
The IAEA team was also informed that the plant has reduced the number of on-site staff to minimum levels over the next few days due to the risk of further fighting nearby.