In an attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Russia has seized the plant and overworked staff is struggling to fulfill their duties amid the invasion. The IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia facility is under threat. As the IAEA mission nears the plant, it is unsure what to do.
Russian Troops Seize Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant
A video shot by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows heavy weapons being fired on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claims that Russia is using the nuclear power plant as a cover. However, the Russian Defense Ministry denied the allegations and said that its forces did not use the plant to store troops or weapons, nor did they fire repeatedly on the site. However, the damage to the nuclear plant and radioactive material from spent fuel storage is a concern.
Reliable Source of Electricity
The Zaporizhzhia NPP was constructed 30 years ago without any war projects in mind, and is a safe and reliable source of electricity for millions of Ukrainians. But the situation has now turned dangerous, and the Ukrainian government has a difficult time keeping the facility functioning under constant threat:
- The IAEA, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, is trying to get access to the site to inspect its operations. But in order to do that, it needs to know the truth.
- After a year of inaction, the World Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General, Rafael Grossi, offered to visit the plant.
- He also offered to facilitate talks between the two countries about how to ensure nuclear safety, physical integrity of the sites, and the continued availability of power.
- The director general also said that the nuclear site is now fully staffed. However, Ukrainian officials report that there was a projectile fired at the training facility, causing a local fire.
In the early days of the Ukrainian conflict, Russian troops took control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. A fire was started close to the reactor, and the plant was not properly secured. The fire was quickly put out after an hour. In the meantime, the US embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine and the World Atomic Energy Organization (WAEA) has all condemned the attack as a war crime.
There was no immediate word on whether the fire was caused by the Russian military or by an enemy group. The emergency services in Ukraine said one of six nuclear reactors was operating at about 60% capacity. As of early Friday, one of the six reactors was working. The fire at Zaporizhzhia was put out by a Russian military force. As of this writing, there is no change in radiation levels. The fire, however, was caused by an unknown group of enemy soldiers.
Little Food & Water
After the Russian troops invaded Ukraine late last February, the crew at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been working nonstop in terrible conditions with little food and water. Now the UN’s nuclear watchdog is worried that staff is working in unsafe conditions in an overworked environment. Moreover, the Russians have cut off critical communication channels at the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants, preventing the employees from returning to their homes in nearby villages.
The nuclear plant is about 16 kilometers from the Belarusian border. Russian forces seized Ukraine’s National Guard troops early on Feb. 24, disarming them quickly. But no deaths were reported. The defense ministry said the staff members were working in joint security to protect the plant. The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine said that the troops were taken prisoner. The plant has a shelter built around it to prevent radiation leakage. But if the Russian forces decide to attack the shelter, it could cover entire Belarus.
UN’s Nuclear Energy Watchdog
The IAEA, the UN’s nuclear energy watchdog, said the radiation levels at the site were subcritical and not enough to cause another major catastrophe. However, the agency expressed concern over the health of the staff, saying “The Chernobyl staff is in desperate need of help.”
International Atomic Energy Agency
The Russians’ arrival has created a massive amount of stress on the staff of the nuclear power plant. As a result, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, said that he was prepared to go to Chernobyl to take care of the situation, but he also promised to relieve some of the personnel.
Lack of Electricity
Invasion fears have grown due to the lack of electricity in the area. While there is no danger of a nuclear meltdown, the absence of electricity at Chernobyl makes it difficult to communicate with the regulatory body. The state-run nuclear energy company also reported that the high-voltage electricity line was cut, which means workers have to use diesel generators for electricity. This has led to concerns about the functioning of cooling pumps for spent nuclear fuel.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently spoke with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a meeting in Lviv. Erdogan has said he plans to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
US actress Tracy Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia on drug charges. US President Joe Biden has condemned the sentence, saying it is “unacceptable.” The US government says Griner was wrongfully detained and offered to swap her for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison term in the US. Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry dismissed a UN proposal to demilitarize the area surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
The Russian attacks in Ukraine come hours before the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders of Turkey and Ukraine. Russia says the strikes were caused by saboteurs and blames the Ukraine government for the incident. A day before, Turkey blamed Ukraine for attacks on its own territory. But Turkey argues that ‘another Chernobyl’ is a real threat to Ukraine.