• Recent shelling at southern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant forced a power shutdown. 
  • A watchdog agency told the UN that continued fighting nearby could lead to "very serious consequences."
  • Ukraine and Western intelligence have accused Russian forces of using the occupied plant as a shield. 

Recent shelling near southern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant caused a power shutdown, a watchdog agency said as officials continue to warn of major consequences if fighting in the area continues. 

In remarks to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said shelling earlier this month caused several explosions near the Zaporizhzhia plant's electrical switchboard, triggering the shutdown.

During the shelling on August 5, one of the plant's reactor units was disconnected from the electrical grid. An emergency protection system and generators were activated to preserve the unit's power supply, Grossi said. Additionally, firefighters had to extinguish a fire caused by shelling near the plant's nitrogen oxygen station.  

Grossi told the Security Council that the plant has a "limited availability" of offsite power because power lines were damaged in recent artillery shelling. 

"These military actions near such a large nuclear facility could lead to very serious consequences," he said. 

"Based on the most recent information provided by Ukraine, IAEA experts have preliminarily assessed that there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety as a result of the shelling or other recent military actions," Grossi explained. "However, this could change at any moment." 

Meanwhile, Ukraine informed the IAEA that new shelling on Thursday caused damage, including to the plant's radiation monitoring equipment, the agency said on Friday. 

Grossi's remarks to the Security Council come as officials continue to sound the alarms that fighting near the Zaporizhzhia plant — which Russian forces have occupied since early March — could cause a major and potentially deadly accident.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned earlier this week that attacks on the plant — which is the largest in Europe — are "suicidal" after Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for the recent shelling.

A recent UK intelligence update from the defense ministry said Russian forces appear to be using the nuclear power plant as a shield, risking its safety and security by taking advantage of the plant's protected status and using it to attack Ukraine. 

Ukrainian forces have been reluctant to strike the plant, fearing that it may cause a nuclear accident, according to multiple reports.

"No one else has used a nuclear plant so obviously to threaten the whole world," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday, adding that only the Russian withdrawal from the Zaporizhzhia plant "will guarantee the restoration of nuclear safety for all of Europe."

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