UN watchdog on shelling at Ukraine nuclear plant: ‘Next time, we may not be so lucky’

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency said recent shelling reported near the largest nuclear power plant in Europe was a “close call” and the world “may not be so lucky” if Ukraine’s plant suffers another attack.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi said shelling at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia plant damaged buildings, systems and equipment, while explosions were also reported near reactors.

“Once again, we were fortunate that a potentially serious nuclear incident did not happen,” Grossi said in a statement on Sunday. “Next time, we may not be so lucky. We must do everything in our power to make sure there is no next time.”

Explosions shook the Zaporizhzhia plant over the weekend as shelling bombarded the area in southern Ukraine.

The IAEA experts on site reported at least a dozen blasts, but it’s unclear who was behind the strikes.

Both Ukraine and Russia blamed each other for the explosions at the plant, which has been the subject of extreme concern for much of the war.

According to the IAEA, agents did not detect leaked radiation at the site and there were no casualties. But damage was reported at a radioactive waste and storage building, in cooling pond sprinkler systems and an electrical cable at one of the reactors, among other places.

The IAEA sent agents to Zaporizhzhia over the fall after fighting broke out at the plant earlier this year.

Grossi said on Sunday that both Russia and Ukraine must agree to establishing a safe zone around the nuclear power plant.

“Even though there was no direct impact on key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant, the shelling came dangerously close to them,” Grossi said. “We are talking metres, not kilometres. Whoever is shelling at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, is taking huge risks and gambling with many people’s lives.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.