International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi said on Thursday that powerful explosions were reported near Ukraine's Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station.
Grossi, who had warned of accidents at the Russian-occupied plant two weeks ago, underscored the need for tight security zone measures around Europe's biggest nuclear plant.
Russia Denies Claim
"Yesterday, eight strong detonations were heard at around 10 a.m. local time, causing office windows at the plant to vibrate, and more were audible today," Grossi said in a statement, according to Reuters.
However, Russia, which took control of the plant in last March, denied the news. "I can only describe this as a provocation. Before you provide such information you need to check it and establish that it is not based on rumour," Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Rosenergoatom, said. Rosenergoatom is the company that operates Russia's nuclear plants.
"On the one hand, they want to show that they are doing something useful. On the other, they are again sowing doubt in Western public opinion that somehow Russia cannot cope with upholding nuclear safety," he said, according to Russian news agency Tass.
International Watchdog Expanding Presence
Grossi said earlier this month that the international watchdog was expanding its presence in Ukraine to prevent a nuclear accident during the ongoing conflict.
"IAEA is expanding its presence in Ukraine to help prevent a nuclear accident during the ongoing conflict. I'm proud to lead this mission to, where we're deploying in all of the country's NPPs to provide assistance in nuclear safety and security," Grossi said.
One of the key objectives of the IAEA team is to make sure an accident does not happen at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The plant, which is Europe's largest nuclear power plant, is located on the left bank of the Dnipro River, where the latest Russian offensive took place.
The IAEA's move came after the Russian offensive in Dnipro killed at least 40 people. The apartment block was hit by Russia's Kh-22 missile, raising fears that scores may have died. Ukraine authorities confirmed at least 40 people have been killed in the attack, marking it as one of the biggest civilian casualties in the one-year war.
What Will Happen If Zaporizhzhia Nuclea Power Plant Blows Up?
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, a city on the Dnipro River, is the largest of its kind in Europe. It accounts for about one-quarter of Ukraine's power generation. Zaporizhzhia is the largest of Ukraine's nuclear sites. It has six out of the country's 15 reactors.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had earlier warned that if the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant blows up in the attack, 'it will be 10 times larger than Chernobyl.' He called upon the Russian forces to a ceasefire and allow firefighters to establish a security zone around the plant.
The Chernobyl accident in 1986, which is called the world's worst nuclear disaster prompted the death of at least 50 people and around 4,000 were severely affected by radiation-related causes. Russia has already seized the decommissioned Chernobyl plant.
Greenpeace International specialists found in their research that if explosions destroy the reactor containment and cooling systems at Zaporizhzhia, the resulting disaster would outstretch the Fukushima in Japan in 2011.