The Zaporizhzhia nuclear station has become “potentially dangerous” as Russian officials began evacuating people from nearby areas. United Nations officials have also commented that the situation is becoming “increasingly unpredictable.”
The head of the UN’s nuclear power watchdog called for measures to ensure the safe operation of Europe’s largest nuclear plant as evacuations were underway in the nearby town of Enerhodar, according to a report by Yahoo News. Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on the agency’s website: “The general situation in the area near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.
“I’m extremely concerned about the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant. We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment,” Grossi added.
The IAEA has issued warnings previously about safety at the plant which Russia captured in the opening days of its invasion last year after shelling caused temporary power cuts. In March the IAEA warned the plant was running on diesel generators to keep vital cooling systems going, after damage to power lines.
Russian-installed governor of the Moscow-controlled part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, Yevgeny Balitsky, said on Friday that he had ordered the evacuation of villages close to the front line as shelling had intensified in the area in recent days. Balitsky said: “In the past few days, the enemy has stepped up shelling of settlements close to the front line. I have therefore made a decision to evacuate first of all children and parents, elderly people, disabled people, and hospital patients,” he wrote on social media.
According to The BBC, Russia has told people to leave 18 settlements in the Zaporizhzhia region, including Enerhodar near the plant, ahead of Kyiv’s anticipated offensive. The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, said there were five-hour waits as thousands of cars left.