Incidents at Zaporizhia plant increase nuclear risk in Ukraine | International
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The fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the vicinity of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, has once again increased the risk of a radioactive leak. A fire caused by bombing, of which kyiv and Moscow accuse each other, left the plant “totally disconnected” from the country’s electricity grid “for the first time in its history,” according to Energoatom, the company that operated the facilities. until Russia seized them last March. The Ukrainian government and experts have warned, after the incident, of the danger of “radioactive disaster”.
The plant has come back into operation, at least partially, this Friday. “One of the units of the Zaporizhia plant that was turned off the day before was reconnected to the power grid and is already producing electricity to meet the needs of Ukraine,” Energoatom announced on its Telegram channel. The facilities were already only connected to the network by one of the four enabled points before the region experienced an increase in military tension. The company, which has refrained from commenting “on the operation of the equipment and security systems”, has applauded the civilian employees who work at the plant as “true heroes” who guarantee “the nuclear security of Ukraine and of All Europe”.
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has raised the tone on the danger of a nuclear accident, blaming Russia for putting “all Europeans one step away from disaster” and has urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to move ” much faster” to protect the Zaporizhia plant. According to the president, the emergency protocols worked when the plant was disconnected from the electrical grid, but he recalled that, if the alternative generators had not been activated, there would have been a radioactive leak. The supply of electricity is essential for nuclear fuel cooling systems. The “only way” to prevent a catastrophe is the “employment and demilitarization” of the plant, added the Ukrainian Minister of Energy, German Galushchenko.
The use of the Zaporizhia plant as a weapon and spoils of war has caused international outrage. “A nuclear plant should never be an active war zone,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said at her daily briefing on Thursday. Jean-Pierre reiterated the United States’ demands that Russia cease its occupation of the nuclear plant and grant access to IAEA experts as soon as possible. This body and the UN are finalizing an agreement with Moscow to allow a mission from the Atomic Agency to monitor the situation at the plant, something that could happen next week. “We don’t want another Chernobyl,” Turkish President Erdogan said last week during his meeting with Zelensky in Lviv.
Moscow blames kyiv
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The Russian view of what happened is the opposite. The Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukrainian forces on Friday of having bombed the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant with large-caliber weapons on two occasions on Thursday. “As a result of the attacks, four projectiles exploded near the oxygen and nitrogen tank and another near the special unit number 1”, said the military spokesman, Igor Konashénkov, in the daily war report.
The Russian authorities had announced last spring that their intention was to disconnect the plant from the electrical network controlled by Ukraine to connect it to the Russian one. The invader’s plans pointed to a disengagement in September. The Ukrainian administration warned that this disconnection was impossible because there are no working power lines connecting Ukraine with Russia, and that erecting a new one takes years. However, experts consulted by EL PAÍS last July indicated that these lines still exist and that, if part of the infrastructure is damaged, it could be repaired.
The Dnipro River as it passes through Zaporizhia has been the main center of electricity production in Ukraine since the first decades of the Soviet Union. In addition to the nuclear plant, Zaporizhia has the largest hydroelectric power plants in the country. For Russia, the control of Ukrainian strategic assets has been an objective since the beginning of the invasion.
The tension in Zaporizhia rose integers from last June when Russia began a bombing campaign in municipalities under Ukrainian control from the vicinity of the atomic plant. The Ukrainian Armed Forces reacted with some precision attacks. The Russian units at the plant then decided to protect their vehicles and weapons in the engine room of one of the reactors.
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