Putin caves over potential nuclear ‘catastrophe’ as Macron to send experts in | World | News

Emmanuel Macron told with Putin on the phone today that he is worried about safety risks surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, the Elysee said.

It added that Putin had agreed to send in experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assess the site, which is the biggest of its kind in Europe. 

According to a Kremlin readout of the call, Putin said the shelling of the plant, which he blamed on Kyiv, created the risk of “large-scale catastrophe”.

However, Ukraine says Russian shelling  in early August damaged three power lines that connect the plant to the Ukrainian grid.

The IAEA had said that fighting around the nuclear plant is “very alarming”.

A readout sent to journalists from Macron’s office added that Putin and Mr Macron will continue to have talks over the coming days.

Ukraine’s nuclear power operator Energoatom announced today that it suspected Moscow was planning to decouple the Zaporizhzhia plant from Ukraine’s grid.

This, Kyiv claims, is so that Russia could connect it to their own grid.

It warned that Russia is planning a “large-scale provocation” to justify doing so.

Petro Kotin, head of Energoatom, told Reuters that the process is technically difficult and could result in catastrophe.

The main risk facing the plant is the loss of power essential to cooling the reactor core and spent fuel pools. 

If cooling systems failed, the nuclear reaction would slow, while the reactor itself would heat up very quickly.

At such high temperatures, hydrogen could be released from the zirconium cladding, leading to the reactor melting down.

Russia recently rejected calls to demilitarise the plant. 

UN Secretary General António Guterres sounded the alarm after meeting Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Lviv on Thursday.

Mr Guterres warned: “Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide”.

Mr Erdogan echoed his concerns, saying that he was worried about the danger of “another Chernobyl” disaster erupting at the plant.

Meanwhile Mr Zelensky urged the UN to ensure the site is demilitarised, and criticised “deliberate” Russian attacks.

But Ivan Nechayev, deputy director of the Russian foreign ministry’s Information and Press Department, rejected the call.

He told reporters: “Their implementation will make the plant even more vulnerable.”

Ukrainian staff, who continute to operate the site under Russian direction, said in the past two weeks it had become “the target of continuous military attacks”.

In a Telegram post in Ukrainian they said: “”What is happening is horrific and beyond common sense and morality”.

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