How Serious Was The Attack On Russia’s Nuclear Power Plant?

Early Friday, Russia shelled Europe’s largest nuclear power station, causing a fire and stoking fears of a calamity akin to the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, which affected all of central Europe for decades.

Concerns dissipated after Ukrainian authorities declared that the fire had been put out and that, while the reactor compartment had been damaged, the unit’s safety had not been jeopardized.

Despite the fact that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear station is designed differently than Chernobyl and is fire-resistant, nuclear safety experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that fighting in and around such installations poses significant risks.

One major issue expressed by Ukraine’s state nuclear regulator is that if the nuclear plant’s power supply is disrupted, it will be forced to use less-reliable diesel generators to provide emergency power to operate cooling systems. A failure of those systems might result in a tragedy similar to the one that occurred at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, when a large earthquake and tsunami wrecked cooling systems, causing three reactors to meltdown.

According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the consequences would be widespread and disastrous.

“If there is an explosion, that’s the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe,” he said in a tearful statement delivered in the middle of the night, urging nations to put pressure on Russia’s leadership to cease the conflict near the plant.

“Only urgent action by Europe can stop the Russian troops. Do not allow the death of Europe from a catastrophe at a nuclear power station.”

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Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Russian forces advanced into the land of Zaporizhzhia and stormed the nearby city of Enerhodar late Thursday to open a passage to the facility after conquering the vital port city of Kherson.

The cause of the power plant’s destruction was not immediately known, but Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov stated a Russian military column had been spotted going toward the nuclear complex and that loud rounds had been heard throughout the city.

Ukraine’s government announced later Friday that Russia has assumed control of the nuclear power plant.

Shells dropped squarely on the facility early Friday morning, according to plant spokeswoman Andriy Tuz, setting fire to one of the facility’s six reactors.

Firefighters couldn’t get close to the flames at first because they were being shot at, according to Tuz.

Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), claimed a facility near to the reactors was struck, not the reactors themselves, after consulting with Ukrainian authorities on Friday.

“All of the safety systems of the six reactors at the plant were not affected at all and there has been no release of radioactive material,” he said.

“However, as you can imagine, the operator and the regulator have been telling us that the situation naturally continues to be extremely tense and challenging.”

Grossi had already warned earlier this week that the IAEA was “gravely worried” about Russian soldiers conducting combat activities so close to the border.

“It is of critical importance that the armed conflict and activities on the ground around Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and any other of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities in no way interrupts or endangers the facilities or the people working at and around them,” he said.

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