Zaporizhzhia: Fears for nuclear safety after shelling at Ukrainian power plant

Then, on Friday, explosions rang out at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power complex, the largest of its kind in Europe, rekindling fears of a potential disaster.

Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of shelling the factory, which was taken over by Russian forces in early March, along with the city of Enerhodar, where the complex is located.

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

“Today, the occupiers have once again created an extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe,” he said in his late-night speech.

The Russian defense ministry denied the claim, saying the Ukrainians had launched three artillery strikes on the factory and the surrounding area. The ministry added that the generating capacity of one unit at the plant had been reduced and the power supply to another had been reduced.

Ukraine’s state-run nuclear power plant, Energoatom, accused Russian forces of attacking the Zaporizhzhya plant and using the complex as a staging area to attack nearby targets, including many in the occupied city of Enerhodar and the nearby Ukrainian city. controlled city of Nikopol.

When fierce fighting first broke out near the facility in the early days of the war, it raised fears of a nuclear incident and led to condemnations from the international community.

Russian forces forced their managers to work “at gunpoint” after taking the factory on March 5, according to Ukrainian nuclear officials. A week later, the Kremlin sent officials and technicians from Russia’s State Nuclear Energy Agency to assist with repairs and management of the facility.

Ukrainian and Russian employees have been working side by side ever since and communication with the outside world has been interrupted.

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

“Three hits were registered directly at the site of the station,” the Ukrainian agency said, claiming that one was “near one of the power plants where the nuclear reactor is located.”

CNN was unable to verify claims of damage at the factory, which occupies a large site. Much of the recent Russian fire in the area has come from near the plant, and it’s unclear if parts of the nuclear facility were accidentally hit.

Energoatom said on Saturday that the plant was operational and Ukrainian personnel continued to work at the station to ensure radiation safety.

Ukrainian prosecutors have launched an investigation into the incident.

Zaporizhzhya plant ‘gone out of control’

The exact danger of the explosions in and around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant is still unclear.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that the situation at the plant got ‘completely out of hand’.

“Every principle of nuclear safety has 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 have been more measured, pointing to the fact that recent nuclear power facilities have been designed to withstand terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

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Several Western and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia is now using the massive nuclear facility as a fortress to protect their troops and launch attacks, assuming Kiev will not retaliate and risk a crisis.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow on Monday of using the factory to protect its troops, and Ukraine has warned that shelling at the complex could be disastrous.

“The potential consequences of hitting a working reactor are equivalent to using an atomic bomb,” The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said: Friday on Twitter.

The UK has said actions at the complex have undermined the safety of the plant’s operations.

“Russian forces have likely used the wider facility area, particularly the adjacent town of Enerhodar, to rest their troops, taking advantage of the nuclear plant’s protected status to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from nighttime Ukrainian attacks, ” The British Ministry of Defense said: Friday in an intelligence update on Twitter.

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

CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Lauren Kent, Yulia Kesaieva and Petro Zadorozhnny contributed to this report.

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