The Russian Defense Ministry today warned that if an accident occurs at a nuclear power plant Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, the radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia. Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s Radioactive, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces, said the plant’s backup support systems were damaged as a result of the bombing, and that several countries in Europe could be at risk if there was an accident.
The warning comes as tensions over the status of the plant have come to a head, with the fate of the facility – the biggest plant of its kind in Europe – being discussed in talks between UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon (18).
The Russian government says it may close the nuclear plant if Ukrainian forces continue to bomb the facility. Ukraine denies bombing the factory and instead blames Russia for putting the facility in danger, saying it is storing ammunition and military equipment there.
The matter causes concern in the international community. Ukraine and other countries have already warned of the potential for a catastrophic accident at the plant. On Wednesday (17), Ukraine’s Ministry of Emergencies held a nuclear catastrophe exercise in the city of Zaporizhzhia, located in southeastern Ukraine on the Dnipro River, in the event of an accident.
Zelenskyy said last night that Ukrainian diplomats and nuclear scientists are in “constant contact” with the International Atomic Energy Agency and working to place a team of inspectors at the plant that has been occupied by Russian troops since the early stages of the war.
Tensions over the plant have escalated in recent weeks with Ukraine accusing Russia of using the facility as a shield and part of a “nuclear blackmail” strategy.
The risks involved in this issue point to the possibility of an accident at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. That’s a terrifying prospect for Ukraine, a country still living with the scars of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which remains the worst nuclear accident in history and which led to the spread of radioactive material across Europe.
“Probably more than any country in the world, Ukraine is aware of the consequences of an explosion and fire at a nuclear power plant,” the British thinktank Chatham House said last week. However, the entity points out that the reactors at Zaporizhzhia are different from those at Chernobyl, but that, nevertheless, an accident at the plant could have significant consequences for Ukraine.
NATO calls for “urgent” inspection. The organization considers it “urgent” for the UN nuclear control body to carry out an inspection of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is under Russian military control, Atlantic Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday.
“It is urgent to authorize an inspection by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and ensure the withdrawal of all Russian forces from the site,” Stoltenberg told a press conference in Brussels. The Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzha plant “poses a serious threat to the facilities [e] increases the risk of a nuclear accident or incident,” she warned.
Ukraine and Russia blame each other for the attacks. The governments of Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of attacks on the nuclear power plant. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of nuclear “blackmail” on Saturday, saying Moscow uses the plant to “bully people in a very cynical way” in his daily televised address.
“They organize constant provocations with bombings against the territory of the nuclear plant and try to bring additional forces in that direction to blackmail our state and the entire free world,” he added.
He assured that Russian forces are “in hiding” at the plant to bomb the cities of Nikopol and Marganets, which are under Ukrainian control.
In turn, occupation authorities installed by Russia in parts of southern Ukraine accused Kiev of being behind the attacks.
“Enerhodar and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are under fire from militants [do presidente Volodimir] Zelensky,” Vladimir Rogov, a member of the pro-Russian military and civilian administration, declared on Telegram.
The projectiles fell “in areas situated on the banks of the [rio] Dnieper and at the power station,” said Rogov, without causing any casualties or damage. Since last week, the two countries have accused each other of being responsible for the bombings against the Zaporizhzhia plant, raising fears of a nuclear catastrophe.
The first attack, which took place on August 5, damaged a high-voltage electrical transformer, causing the automatic shutdown of reactor number 3 at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.