Russian forces damage and seize Ukrainian nuclear power plant; no indication of elevated radiation levels

A damaged administrative building of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, in a handout picture released on Friday. Credit: Energoatom/Via New York Times A damaged administrative building of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, in a handout picture released on Friday. Credit: Energoatom/Via New York Times

Ukraine’s State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation reported that Russian forces shelled and seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. The fire was subsequently extinguished, and Thursday evening the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tweeted that the Ukraine nuclear regulator has told the agency that there is “no change reported in radiation levels at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant site.” US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also said there was no indication of elevated radiation levels at the plant, Reuters reported.

The nuclear regulator said in a statement that the building of one reactor was damaged and that two artillery shells hit a storage site for spent nuclear fuel. There are six reactors at the Zaporizhzhia site, three of which are shut down, one of which is operating at 60 percent, and two of which are “’being held’ in low power mode,” according to an International Atomic Energy statement.

The nuclear regulator reported no deaths or injuries among the plant workers but noted that they “were forced to continue working at their jobs for more than 24 hours.”

Nataliia Klos, a nuclear security expert from Lviv, is collecting medicine, food, and other supplies for the nuclear power plant workers. “I’m very worried about the staff and people who live in the city, Enerdogar, and [who work at the] Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant,” Klos told the Bulletin today. They tell us that everything is okay, nobody hurts. But I don’t believe [it] honestly.” The IAEA has since reported that two people were injured.

“Russia was the first country in the world who actually shot [a] nuclear facility, not because they [were] blind or stupid. No, they’re doing this on purpose.” Klos said.

RELATED:
Nuclear reactors in a war zone: A new type of weapon?
Map of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. Multiple news sources are reporting that Russian forces have shelled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine and that at least part of the facility is on fire. Credit: Eric Gaba (Sting). Public domain image accessed via Wikipedia.
Map of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. Multiple news sources are reporting that Russian forces have shelled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine and that at least part of the facility is on fire. Credit: Eric Gaba (Sting). Public domain image accessed via Wikipedia.

“It’s very dangerous for operation, because when staff get very tired, they can make mistakes,” Kateryna Pavlova, Chernobyl’s Head of the Department for International Cooperation and Public Relations, told the Bulletin this morning. The staff have since rotated, according to the nuclear regulator’s statement.

Speaking in Vienna two days ago, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi called for restraint, noting that this is “the first time a military conflict is happening amidst the facilities of a large, established nuclear power program.”

“We demand that they stop the heavy weapons fire,” Zaporizhzhia power plant spokesman Andriy Tuz said in a video statement quoted in the AP report. “There is a real threat of nuclear danger in the biggest atomic energy station in Europe.”

A spokesperson for Energoatom, Zaporizhzhia’s operator, told the Kyiv Independent that the situation remains “extremely dangerous” as the plant’s operations must remain uninterrupted. President Volodymyr Zelensky recalled the world’s worst nuclear accident when he said that a disaster at Zaporizhzhia would be “like six Chernobyls.”

“Our [Zaporizhzhia] facility was built more than 30 years ago without projects for war,” Pavlova said. “It’s a peaceful use of atoms.” Pavlova added that Ukrainian authorities continue to send regular reports to the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General about Zaporizhzhia, but they have lost connection with workers inside the plant and do not know how many were impacted by the takeover.

Editor’s note: This is a developing story that will be updated as additional reliable information is available.


As the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows, nuclear threats are real, present, and dangerous

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Brian Whit
Brian Whit
4 months ago

50% of Ukraine power is nuclear. That’s the problem with intricate machines that are extremely dangerous: nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons. Its much harder to control contingencies. In war and business, it all looks good on paper. ‘Deterrence’ strategy, just a huge violent wild card in brinksmanship, and nuclear power plants during wartime, or near fault lines, or flood plains. I understand the need for nuclear power plants. I do not understand the merit of nuclear missiles/deterrence: the benefit is certainly not worth the risk. Could we not cut off all economic resources to bring nuclear weapons holders to heel?… Read more »

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