The fire at Ukraine’s biggest nuclear plant ignited by the Russian bombing has been extinguished.
Russian troops seized control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant early Friday after a building at the site caught fire during heavy fighting with Ukrainian forces.
The incident at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant raised alarm from global leaders of a potential massive disaster before Ukraine’s state emergency service announced the blaze had been put out.
In a statement Friday morning, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (SNRI) confirmed that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine was occupied by Russian military forces, but said officials remained in contact with plant management.
The Ukrainian nuclear inspectorate said: “The territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is occupied by the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”
SNRI said in a statement that the power plant’s six reactors remain intact, though the compartment auxiliary buildings for reactor unit 1 had been damaged. Four of the remaining units are being cooled down while one unit is providing power.
They also said that no changes in radiation levels have been recorded so far. It said staff is studying the site to check for other damage to the compartment of reactor No. 1 at the Zaporizhzhia plant in the city of Enerhodar.
Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, said the “administrative building and the checkpoint at the station are under occupiers’ control.” It said staff is working on the power units to ensure their stable operation.
Energoatom added in a statement posted to Telegram that “Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded among the Ukrainian defenders of the station.”
The regulator noted in a statement on Facebook the importance of maintaining the ability to cool nuclear fuel, saying the loss of such ability could lead to an accident even worse than the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, or the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns in Japan.
The update came after Ukraine’s State Emergency Services (SES) had earlier confirmed several dozen firefighters had extinguished a blaze that had started in a training building outside the main reactor complex, following shelling from Russian military forces.
The shelling of the plant came as the Russian military pressed their attack on a crucial energy-producing Ukrainian city and gained ground in their bid to cut off the country from the sea. As the invasion entered its second week, another round of talks between Russia and Ukraine yielded a tentative agreement to set up safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver humanitarian aid.
Leading nuclear authorities were worried, about the damage to the power station. The assault, however, led to phone calls between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders. The U.S. Department of Energy activated its nuclear incident response team as a precaution.
In a Facebook post early Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian troops of committing a “terror attack” by intentionally firing at the power plant, potentially risking the lives of millions.
Zelensky said in the post: “Russian tanks, equipped with thermal imagery, are shooting at the atomic blocks. They know what they are shooting at. They’ve been preparing for this (attack),” adding “our guys are keeping the atomic power station secure.”
Andriy Tuz, the nuclear plant spokesman, told Ukrainian television that shells fell directly on the facility and set fire to one of its six reactors. That reactor is under renovation and not operating, he said.
Dmytro Orlov, mayor of Enerhodar, announced on his Telegram channel Friday morning that “the fire at the (nuclear plant) has indeed been extinguished.” His office told The Associated Press that the information came from firefighters who were allowed onto the site overnight.
Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in “coming hours” to raise the issue of Russia’s attack on the nuclear power plant.
Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Energy Secretary, tweeted that the Zaporizhzhia plant’s reactors were protected by robust containment structures and were being safely shut down.
President Zelensky explained: “There are 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine. If one of them blows, that’s the end for everyone, that’s the end of Europe. All of Europe will have to evacuate.”
“No country besides Russia has ever fired upon an atomic power plant’s reactors. The first time, the first time in history,” added Zelensky, urging European leaders to “wake up now” and stop Russian forces “before this becomes a nuclear disaster.”
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