Russia Shells Europe’s Largest Nuclear Plant In Ukraine, Sparking Fire

Russian troops shelled Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine, prompting worries of an international disaster amid the Kremlin’s ongoing invasion of the country.

The shelling took place at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, a city about 400 miles from Kyiv. The International Atomic Energy Agency said it had spoken with Ukrainian officials, who said there are no changes in radiation levels at the site, which provides about 25% of Ukraine’s power.

Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, Dmytro Kuleba, confirmed the reports on Thursday evening, saying a fire had broken out. He called for an immediate cease-fire to allow emergency officials to stop the blaze and said Russian troops were firing on the facility “from all sides.”

“If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger” than the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Kuleba tweeted. “Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”

Reuters added later that the fire was in a training building outside the plant, although it could not verify its seriousness.

The Ukrainian State Emergency Service said early Friday morning the blaze had been extinguished, and there were no deaths or injuries linked to the shelling.

Nuclear experts said the plant’s reactors are a different type than the ones used at Chernobyl and that emergency safety measures should kick in. The shelling should pose little risk if the containment vessels aren’t damaged and outside power can be restored to the site, although they warned that any military action at a nuclear facility was a danger.

“We don’t know the status of the system or the power and until we do, we won’t know the full extent of the risk,” tweeted Jon B. Wolfsthal, a former adviser to then-Vice President Joe Biden. “Yes, a fire at any nuclear plant is a bad thing but there are a few things to know.”

Andriy Tuz, a spokesperson for the plant, told a Ukrainian television station that one of the site’s six nuclear reactors was on fire. That reactor is under renovation and not operating, but has nuclear fuel inside, he said. Open pools where spent nuclear fuel rods have been cooling are also a concern, The New York Times noted.

Tuz added that firefighters initially weren’t able to get near the plant because they are being shot at, The Associated Press added.

Rafael Mariano Gross, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also called for an immediate halt in military action near the plant, saying the body would continue to support Ukraine in hopes of maintaining nuclear safety and security.

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