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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed concern for the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Ukraine after a shelling incident damaged buildings, systems and equipment.

IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi said explosions had been reported near the Zaporizhzhya NPP’s reactors.

He described the shelling as another ‘close call’ for the facility, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Shelling began shortly before 6pm local time on Saturday 19 November and resumed at 9:15am on Sunday 20 November.

More than 12 blasts were reported in a period of 40 minutes, according to a team of IAEA experts.

Grossi said: “Once again, we were fortunate that a potentially serious nuclear incident did not happen.

“Next time, we may not be so lucky. We must do everything in our power to make sure there is no next time.”

Grossi reiterated his calls for urgent measures to protect the Zaporizhzhya NPP and prevent a nuclear accident during the current conflict in Ukraine.

Despite the shelling, radiation levels at the site remained normal and no casualties near the blast were reported.

In addition, the NPP’s external power supplies remained intact despite heavy shelling.

Grossi said he had been in ‘active consultations’ with world leaders concerning the shelling at the Zaporizhzhya NPP.

He added: “Even though there was no direct impact on key nuclear safety and security systems at the plant, the shelling came dangerously close to them.

“We are talking metres, not kilometres. Whoever is shelling at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is taking huge risks and gambling with many people’s lives.”

The IAEA’s team of experts plan to carry out an assessment of the shelling impact on the site on 21 November.

Last month, operations at the NPP were disrupted after heavy shelling by Russian forces cut the power lines to the site.