Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director-General of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine is becoming "increasingly precarious" after shelling caused a complete blackout in the nearby city of Enerhodar.
In a statement on Friday, chief of the UN nuclear watchdog said that shelling of the switchyard at the thermal power plant in Enerhodar, home to the Zaporizhzhia plant's operators and their families, has destroyed the city's power infrastructure and led to a complete blackout, reports Xinhua news agency.
Increasingly Dire Situation
"Given the increased and continued shelling, there is little likelihood of re-establishing reliable offsite power" to the plant, Grossi said.
He said that the Zaporizhzhia plant's operator is considering shutting down the facility's only operating reactor, which would leave the plant fully reliant on emergency diesel generators for ensuring vital nuclear safety and security functions.
Grossi also said the increasingly dire situation at Enerhodar might impact the availability of essential staff at the nuclear plant.
He reiterated his call for the immediate cessation of all shelling around the plant and the establishment of a "nuclear safety and security protection zone now."
"This is the only way to ensure that we do not face a nuclear accident," he warned.
Zaporizhzhia, one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, has been controlled by Russian forces since early March, while its Ukrainian staff continue to operate it.
In recent weeks, the site of the plant has been attacked by shelling, with Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of the strikes.