Explosions at Ukrainian nuclear energy plant spark fears of nuclear disaster
About 500 Russian soldiers were at the nuclear station
Explosions this weekend at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plantthe Zaporizhzhia power plant in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar, occupied by Russian forces along the Dnipro River, raised fears that the war could trigger a nuclear catastrophe.
About 500 Russian soldiers were at the nuclear station, where they have been holed up for several weeks and have been firing missiles at Ukrainian positions across the river, according to Ukrainian officials.
Each side blames the other for the bombing near the plant, which led to the cutting of a high-voltage line, prompting staff at the plant to shut down one of its six reactors over the weekend, according to Ukrainian nuclear regulator Energoatom. The plant has been controlled by the Russians since the early days of the war, but the Ukrainian team still operates it.
“This time, a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously averted, but miracles cannot last forever,” Energoatom told Telegram on Sunday.
So far, Ukrainian authorities have said there has been no damage to the reactors and no radiological releases. But missiles fired on Saturday night (6) damaged three radiation monitors, Energoatom reported by Telegram on Sunday, 7. About 800 square meters of window surfaces in power plant buildings were damaged due to fragments of explosions. A nuclear plant employee was hospitalized with shrapnel injuries.
More explosions around Enerhodar were reported on social media on Sunday but could not be independently verified.
Oleksandr Starukh, governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, wrote on Telegram on Monday that, due to hostilities, only two of the six reactors at the nuclear plant were connected to the power grid. “Due to the destruction of the power grid, there is a danger that it will not be possible to transmit electricity from the station,” he wrote. Energoatom also accused Russia of trying to disconnect the nuclear station from the grid, which could trigger a blackout in much of southern Ukraine.
The head of the United Nations atomic agency on Saturday condemned military activity near the plant and pressed for his staff to gain access to the facility. Ukraine is already the site of the world’s most catastrophic nuclear accident, the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. “Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would amount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences.” said Rafael Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency.