By Pavel Polityuk and Sergiy Karazy
kyiv, Aug 9 (Reuters) – The head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company warned on Tuesday of “very high” risks from the bombing of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in the Russian-occupied south, saying it was vital that kyiv regain control of the facility in time for the winter.
Energoatom chief Petro Kotin told Reuters in an interview that last week’s Russian bombardment damaged three lines connecting the Zaporizhia plant to the Ukrainian grid and that Russia wanted to connect the facility to its grid.
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other in recent days of bombing the site of the large nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, which is located in territory controlled by Russia.
Some of the shelling fell near the spent fuel storage facility, an area that holds 174 containers of highly radioactive material, Kotin said, warning of the dangers of their being hit.
“This is (…) the most radioactive material in the entire nuclear power plant. This (would mean) the distribution (of it) around this place and then we will have like a cloud of radiation and then the climate will decide (… .) which way the cloud is going,” he said.
“The risk is very high,” he said.
Kotin said that Russia wanted to connect the plant to its network, a technically difficult process that requires the facility to be separated from the Ukrainian system before it can be gradually connected to the Russian system.
“Their plan is to damage all the lines of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. After that, it will not be connected to the Ukrainian electricity system,” he said.
The nuclear plant has six reactors and produced 20-21% of Ukraine’s electricity needs before the war, and is in dire need of refurbishment, he added.
Around 500 Russian soldiers are currently at the facility with heavy vehicles and the plant is being used as a base, he said. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Sergiy Karazy Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)