Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said Russian troops seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant to safeguard its nuclear fuel and materials.
It is Europe’s biggest nuclear plant, generating more than half of Ukraine’s nuclear power and 20% of the country’s total electricity supply.
Russian forces shelled the Zaporizhzhia plant on March 3rd, and later took control. Now just two of its six reactors are operating.
In a statement posted on the Russian foreign ministry website, Ms Zakharova said: “We again stress that the placing under protection by Russian military personnel of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant was justified from the point of view of preventing a leak of nuclear and radioactive materials at a nuclear facility that happened to be in the zone of the special military operation.”
Her comments came in response to a statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency that it was seeking to visit the plant to check plutonium and enriched uranium was not being diverted to other uses.
Zakharova dismissed the IAEA’s concerns, saying the uranium was low-enriched and plutonium was in spent fuel and could not be separated “without the use of quite complex equipment that only several countries have”.