Missile hits nuclear waste site in Ukraine days after Russia seized Chernobyl

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Russian missiles have struck a radioactive waste store near Kyiv, narrowly avoiding a serious environmental incident.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog confirmed the disposal site close to the capital was hit by powerful explosives.

As Ukraine enters its fifth day of war, authorities are monitoring the second nuclear scare of the conflict, days after Russian troops took control of Chernobyl.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said damage to storage sites could have ‘potentially severe consequences for human health and the environment’.

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Ukrainian authorities informed his office about the overnight strike, but there are no reports of damage to the buildings or indications of a release of radioactive material.

He said his agency expects to soon receive the results of on-site radioactive testing.

Such facilities typically hold low-level radioactive materials such as waste from hospitals and industry, but Mr Grossi said the two incidents highlight a ‘very real risk’.

Increased radiation levels have been detected around the site of the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which lies around 100km north of the capital.

The IAEA said the heightened gamma radiation levels do not not pose a risk to the public.

An emergency meeting of the board which oversees the site of the world’s worst ever nuclear disaster is due to take place later this week.

The international body will discuss the ‘safety, security and safeguard implications of the situation in Ukraine’.

The nuclear watchdog is particularly concerned that staff at the site have not been able to leave since Thursday.

There are fears experts are being held to keep the site’s critical safety processes working but will be exhausted as the conflict grinds on.

The Ukrainian government said increased levels at Chernobyl were due to radiation material in the ground being disturbed by military vehicles.

As speculation mounts that the Russian war effort is faltering, Vladimir Putin ratcheted up tensions by putting nuclear forces on high alert.

The president cited ‘aggressive statements’ from Nato when he announced on television that weapons programmes would move to a heightened state of readiness.

Responding to the news from Moscow, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said: ‘President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable.

‘And we have to continue to condemn his actions in the most strong, strongest possible way.’

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