Zaporizhzhia: Nuclear safety fears after bombing of Ukrainian power plant



CNN

Ukrainian officials and international experts have been warning for months of the risk the fighting poses to a nuclear plant on the banks of the Dnipro river in southern Ukraine. Earlier this week, the world’s nuclear watchdog said the situation was becoming increasingly dangerous.

Then on Friday, explosions erupted at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, the largest of its kind in Europe, rekindling fears of a potential disaster.

Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of bombing the plant, which was taken over by Russian forces in early March, as well as the town of Enerhodar, where the complex is located.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Moscow for the attack, calling the strikes a “brazen crime” and an “act of terror”.

“Today the occupiers have created another extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe,” he said in his late-night address on Friday.

The Russian Defense Ministry denied the claim, saying the Ukrainians carried out three artillery strikes on the plant and its surroundings. The ministry added that the production capacity of one unit of the plant had been reduced and the power supply of another cut off.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been seen since yesterday Thursday.

Ukrainian nuclear power operator Energoatom has accused Russian forces of hitting the Zaporizhzhia power plant and using the complex as a staging ground to strike nearby targets, including many in the occupied town of Enerhodar. and the neighboring Ukrainian-controlled city of Nikopol.

When heavy fighting first broke out near the facility early in the war, it raised fears of a nuclear incident and drew condemnation from the international community.

Russian troops forced its leaders work “under the threat of a weapon” after seizing the plant on March 5, according to Ukrainian nuclear officials. A week later, the Kremlin sent officials and technicians from Russia’s state nuclear agency to help carry out repairs and run the facility.

Since then, the Ukrainian and Russian teams have been working side by side and communication with the outside world has been intermittent.

Energoatom said on Friday that Russian shelling struck in and around the nuclear complex and damaged a water intake facility, cutting off electricity and water to much of Enerhodar.

“Three shots were recorded directly on the site of the power plant”, indicated the Ukrainian agency, affirming that one of them was “near one of the power units where the nuclear reactor is located”. .

CNN was unable to verify claims of damage to the plant, which occupies a large site. Much of the recent Russian fires in the region originated near the plant and it is unclear whether parts of the nuclear facility were accidentally hit.

Energoatom said on Saturday that the plant was operational and Ukrainian staff at the station continued to work to provide radiation protection.

Ukrainian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the incident.

The exact danger posed by the explosions in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant remains unclear.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said in an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday that the situation at the factory was “completely out of control”.

“All nuclear security principles have been violated,” he said, calling on Russia and Ukraine to allow experts to visit the site. “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely serious and dangerous.”

Other officials were more measured, pointing to the fact that recent nuclear facilities are designed to withstand terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Several Western and Ukrainian officials believe Russia is now using the giant nuclear facility as a fortress to protect its troops and stage attacks, as they assume Kyiv will not retaliate and risk a crisis.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday accused Moscow of using the plant to protect its forces, and Ukraine warned that bombing the complex could be disastrous.

“The possible consequences of an impact on an operating reactor are equivalent to the use of an atomic bomb”, The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Friday on Twitter.

The UK said actions at the complex had compromised the safety of plant operations.

“Russian forces likely used the wider installation area, particularly the adjacent town of Enerhodar, to rest their forces, using the protected status of the nuclear power plant to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from attacks. nocturnal Ukrainians”, The UK Ministry of Defense said Friday in an information update on Twitter.

The Ukrainian mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said in late July that Russian forces had been observed using heavy weapons near the plant because “they know very well that the Ukrainian armed forces will not respond to these attacks, because they can damage the nuclear power plant”. plant.”