Russia's ministry of defense has said it is considering shutting down the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) in southern Ukraine, triggering a warning from Ukraine's state nuclear agency that doing so would risk disaster.
“Negative developments” at the power plant could force Russia to consider “putting the 5th and 6th power units" into the “cold reserve,” leading to “the shutdown of the Zaporizhzhia NPP,” the ministry said in a statement Thursday, blaming Ukraine for shelling the site. Ukrainian authorities have refuted the allegations, accusing Russia of being behind attacks that have damaged the complex.
Energoatom, Ukraine's state-run nuclear power company, said the prospect of shutting down the plant would bring “the scenario of a radiation disaster closer.”
“In the event of the disconnection of the [Zaporizhzhia] NPP generators from the power system of Ukraine, they will not be able to be used for their own fuel cooling needs in case of a power outage at the plant,” Energoatom said in a Telegram post on Thursday. “This will approximate the possible scenario of a radiation disaster at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.”
The plant is the focal point of growing global concern after weeks of increased shelling has sparked calls from the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency to allow experts to visit the facility and ratcheted fears of a potential nuclear accident.
Both sides have tried to point the finger at the other for threatening nuclear terrorism.
Ukrainian shelling has damaged auxiliary support systems, such as splash pools and other equipment that keeps the reactors cool, according to the ministry, which accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out 12 attacks on the facility using more than 50 artillery shells and five kamikaze drones.
Ukraine has consistently denied the allegations and blamed Russia of shelling the plant, as well as using it as a shield from which to fire at Ukrainian positions in Nikopol, on the opposite bank of the Dnipro River. Russia has also denied Ukrainian claims.
“We are ready to present to the IAEA real high-resolution images ... which shows that weapons, especially heavy ones, are not placed on the territory of this station,” the Russian defense ministry said on Thursday.
“We know that in the presence of a large number of military and commercial foreign satellites, the same information can be presented to the world by the American side,” it added.
CNN cannot independently verify Ukrainian or Russian claims about strikes and placement of heavy military equipment at Zaporizhzhia NPP.
CNN has reached out to commercial satellite imagery operators to verify Russian claims but has yet to hear back.