Turkey quake revives debate over nuclear plant being built
A devastating earthquake that toppled buildings across parts of Turkey and neighboring Syria has revived a longstanding debate locally and in neighboring Cyprus about a large nuclear power station being built on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coastline. The plant’s site in Akkuyu, located some 210 miles (338 kilometers) to the west of the epicenter of the Feb. 6 quake, is being designed to endure powerful tremors and did not sustain any damage or experience powerful ground shaking from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks. But the size of the quake — the deadliest in Turkey’s modern history — sharpened existing concerns about the facility being built on the edge of a major fault line. Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned company in charge of the project, says the power station is designed to “withstand extreme external influences” from a magnitude 9 earthquake. In nuclear power plant construction, plants are designed to survive shaking that is more extreme than what’s been previously recorded in the area they’re sited. The possibility of a magnitude 9 earthquake occurring in the vicinity of the Akkuyu reactor “is approximately once every 10,000 years,” Rosatom told The Associated Press via email last week. “That is exactly how the margin of safety concept is being implemented.” An official with Turkey’s Energy Ministry, when contacted by the AP, said there were no immediate plans to reassess the project. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol. Some activists, however, still say the project — the first nuclear power plant in Turkey — poses a threat. Nuclear facilities are constructed of heavily reinforced concrete, sized for significant earthquake shaking and far more robust than commercial buildings, said Andrew Whittaker, a professor of civil engineering at the University at Buffalo who is an expert in earthquake engineering and nuclear structures. The fact that it’s sited off the western end of the East Anatolian Fault, which was linked to last week’s powerful tremor, suggests that the design would have been checked for significant shaking, Whittaker added. Still, Whittaker said, it would be prudent to reassess seismic hazard calculations in the region for all infrastructure, including the plant. “There’s no reason to be concerned, but there’s always a reason to be cautious,” he said. That’s little comfort to activists in Turkey and on both sides of ethnically divided Cyprus. They’ve renewed their calls for the project to be scrapped, saying that the devastating earthquake is clear proof of the great risk posed by a nuclear power plant near seismic fault lines. In a statement to the AP, the Cyprus Anti-Nuclear platform, a coalition of over 50 Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot environmentalist groups, trade unions and political parties, said it “calls on all political parties, scientific and environmental organizations and the civil society to join efforts and put pressure on the Turkish government to terminate its plans for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant.” Cypriot European Parliament member Demetris Papadakis asked the European Commission what immediate actions it intends to take to halt the plant because of the dangers posed by building a nuclear power station in a seismic zone so close to Cyprus. Nuclear power plants worldwide are designed to withstand earthquakes and shut down safely in the event of major earth movement — about 20% of nuclear reactors are operating in areas of significant seismic activity, according to the World Nuclear Association. For example, Japanese nuclear plants, including the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, are in regions where earthquakes of up to magnitude 8.5 may be expected, the association said. Stricter safety standards were adopted after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, when a tsunami crashed into the Daichi plant, melting three reactors and releasing dangerous levels of radiation. And the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California was designed to safely withstand earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding that could potentially occur in the region too, according to its operator. Turkish nuclear regulators provided the license for the plant’s construction in Akkuyu in 1976 following eight years of seismic studies to determine the most suitable location, but the project was slowed down after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. Construction of the first reactor started in 2018. Large nuclear power plants have traditionally taken a while to build because of the size, scale and complexity of the infrastructure, and delays associated with first-of-a-kind plants. According to Rosatom, a study by Turkey’s Office for the Prevention and Elimination of Consequences of Emergency Situations indicates that the site in Akkuyu – some 60 miles (95 kilometers) from Cyprus’ northern coastline – is located in the fifth degree earthquake zone, which is considered the safest region in terms of earthquakes. The plant design includes an external reinforced concrete wall and internal protective shell made of “prestressed concrete,” with metal cables stretched inside the concrete shell to give additional solidity to the structure, the company said. And the modern reactor design, Russia’s VVER-1200, includes an additional safety feature — a 144 ton steel cone called the “core catcher” that in an emergency, traps and cools any molten radioactive materials, Rosatom added. The company emphasized that power units with VVER-1200 reactors comply with the post-Fukushima requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency. There’s a political dimension to qualms about the plant: Cyprus has accused Turkey of augmenting the Turkish Cypriots’ dependence on it in order to entrench the island’s ethnic division. Turkey has said it would supply the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island with electricity through an undersea cable. A pipeline suspended a couple of hundred meters under the Mediterranean’s surface is already supplying the north with water. The plant, whose first of four reactors is scheduled to go online later this year, will have a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts of electricity, providing about 10% of Turkey’s electricity needs. According to government figures, if the power plant started operating today, it could singlehandedly provide enough electricity for a city of about 15 million people, such as Istanbul, Rosatom added. It’s estimated to cost $20 billion. Rosatom has a 99.2% stake in the project, and is contracted to build, maintain, operate and decommission the plant. ___ McDermott reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Suzan Fraser, in Ankara, Turkey, contributed.
Shells hit near nuclear plant; blackouts roll across Ukraine
Powerful explosions from shelling shook Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region, the site of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, the global nuclear watchdog said Sunday, calling for “urgent measures to help prevent a nuclear accident” in the Russian-occupied facility. A heavy barrage of Russian military strikes — almost 400 on Sunday alone — also hit Ukraine's eastern regions, and fierce ground battles shook the eastern Donetsk province, Ukraine's president said in his evening update. Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said multiple explosions near the plant — on Saturday evening and again on Sunday morning — abruptly ended a period of relative calm around the nuclear facility that has been the site of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. The fighting has raised the specter of a nuclear catastrophe ever since Russian troops occupied the plant during the early days of the war. In renewed shelling both close to and at the site, IAEA experts at the Zaporizhzhia facility reported hearing more than a dozen blasts within a short period Sunday morning and could see some explosions from their windows, the agency said. Read more: UK PM Sunak makes surprise trip to Kyiv, boosts defence aid Later in the day, the IAEA said the shelling had stopped and that its experts would assess the situation on Monday. “There has been damage to parts of the site, but no radiation release or loss of power,” the agency said. Still, Grossi called the shelling “extremely disturbing,” and appealed to both sides to urgently implement a nuclear safety and security zone around the facility. “Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately," he said. “As I have said many times before, you’re playing with fire!” Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s power grid and other infrastructure from the air, causing widespread blackouts and leaving millions of Ukrainians without heat, power or water as frigid cold and snow blankets the capital, Kyiv, and other cities. Ukraine’s state nuclear power operator, Energoatom, said Russian forces were behind the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia plant, and that the equipment targeted was consistent with the Kremlin’s intent “to damage or destroy as much of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as possible" as winter sets in. The weekend strikes damaged the system that would enable the plant's power units 5 and 6 to start producing electricity again for Ukraine, the power operator said. The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine hopes to bring the two units to a minimally controlled power level to obtain steam, which is critical in winter for ensuring the safety of the plant and the surrounding area, Energoatom said. Moscow, meanwhile, blamed Ukrainian forces for the damage. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov accused the Ukrainians of shelling the power plant twice on Sunday and said two shells hit near power lines supplying the plant with electricity. Elsewhere in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian forces shelled civilian infrastructure in about a dozen communities, destroying 30 homes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said Sunday. Twenty buildings were damaged in shelling at Nikopol, a city across the river from the Zaporizhzhia plant, it said. Read more: Deadly missile strike adds to Ukraine war fears in Poland In his evening address, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were making small gains in the eastern Luhansk region and were holding their ground in battles in the south. Blackouts were scheduled Sunday night in 15 regions of Ukraine and the city of Kyiv, Zelenskyy said. The country’s power utility, meanwhile, said there would be scheduled outages in every region on Monday. “The restoration of networks and technical supply capabilities, the de-mining of power transmission lines, repairs — everything goes on round the clock,” Zelenskyy said. Three districts in the northern Kharkiv region — Kupyansk, Chuguiv and Izyum — also came under Russian artillery fire. The situation in the southern Kherson region “remains difficult,” the president's office said, citing Ukraine's armed forces. Russian forces fired tank shells, rockets and other artillery on the city of Kherson and several nearby settlements that were recently liberated by Ukrainian forces. Shelling late Saturday struck an oil depot in Kherson, igniting a huge fire that sent billowing smoke into the air. Russian troops also shelled people lining up to get bread in Bilozerka, a town in the Kherson province, wounding five, the report said. In the city of Kherson — which still has little power, heat or water — more than 80 tons of humanitarian aid have been sent, said local official Yaroslav Yanushevych, including a UNICEF shipment of 1,500 winter outfits for children, two 35-40-kilowatt generators and drinking water. Also on Sunday, a funeral was held in eastern Poland for the second of two men killed in a missile explosion Tuesday. The other man was buried Saturday. Poland and the head of NATO have both said the missile strike appeared to be unintentional, and was probably launched by Ukraine as it tried to shoot down Russia missiles.
last reactor at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant shut to avoid radiation
Europe's largest nuclear plant has been reconnected to Ukraine's electricity grid, allowing engineers to shut down its last operational reactor in an attempt to avoid a radiation disaster as fighting rages in the area. The six-reactor Zaporizhzhia plant lost its outside source of power a week ago after all its power lines were disconnected as a result of shelling. It was operating in “island mode” for several days, generating electricity for crucial cooling systems from its only remaining operational reactor. Nuclear operator Energoatom said one of those power lines was restored “to its operational capacity” late Saturday, making it possible to run the plant's safety and other systems on electricity from the power system of Ukraine. Also read: Russia pulls back troops from Ukraine's Kharkiv “Therefore, a decision was made to shut down power unit No. 6 and transfer it to the safest state – cold shutdown," the company said in a statement. Energoatom said the risk remains high that outside power is cut again, in which case the plant would have to fire up emergency diesel generators to keep the reactors cool and prevent a nuclear meltdown. The company's chief told The Associated Press on Thursday that the plant only has diesel fuel for 10 days. The plant, one of the 10 biggest atomic power stations in the world, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early stages of the war. Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for shelling around the plant that has damaged the power lines connecting it to the grid. Energoatom renewed its appeal for Russian forces to leave the Zaporizhzhia plant and allow for the creation of a “demilitarized zone” around it. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog which has two experts at the plant, confirmed to the AP on Sunday that external power has been restored at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. “After yesterday’s restoration of the power line – which connects the ZNPP to the switchyard of a nearby thermal power station – the operator of the ZNPP this morning shut down its last operating reactor, which over the past week had been providing the plant with the required power after it was disconnected from the grid,” the IAEA said in an emailed statement. “IAEA staff present at the ZNPP were informed this morning about these new developments, which were also confirmed by Ukraine.” Also read: Rebuilding Ukraine may cost $349bn IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi has called for a safe zone around the plant to avert a disaster.
Ukraine's nuclear plant partly goes offline amid fighting
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Saturday that the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine was disconnected to its last external power line but was still able to run electricity through a reserve line amid sustained shelling in the area. International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi said in a statement that the agency's experts, who arrived at Zaporizhzhia on Thursday, were told by senior Ukrainian staff that the fourth and last operational line was down. The three others were lost earlier during the conflict. But the IAEA experts learned that the reserve line linking the facility to a nearby thermal power plant was delivering the electricity the plant generates to the external grid, the statement said. The same reserve line can also provide backup power to the plant if needed, it added. “We already have a better understanding of the functionality of the reserve power line in connecting the facility to the grid,” Grossi said. “This is crucial information in assessing the overall situation there.” In addition, the plant's management informed the IAEA that one reactor was disconnected Saturday afternoon because of grid restrictions. Another reactor is still operating and producing electricity both for cooling and other essential safety functions at the site and for households, factories and others through the grid, the statement said. Read:Fighting goes on near Ukraine nuclear plant; IAEA on site The Zaporizhzhia facility, which is Europe's largest nuclear plant, has been held by Russian forces since early March, but its Ukrainian staff are continuing to operate it. The Russian-appointed city administration in Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhzhia plant is located, blamed an alleged Ukrainian shelling attack on Saturday morning for destroying a key power line. “The provision of electricity to the territories controlled by Ukraine has been suspended due to technical difficulties,” the municipal administration said in a post on its official Telegram channel. It wasn't clear whether electricity from the plant was still reaching Russian-held areas. Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Kremlin-appointed regional administration said on Telegram that a shell had struck an area between two reactors. His claims couldn't be immediately verified. Over the past several weeks, Ukraine and Russia have traded blame over shelling at and near the plant, while also accusing each other of attempts to derail the visit by IAEA experts, whose mission is meant to help secure the site. Grossi said their presence at the site is “a game changer.” Russia’s Defense Ministry said that Ukrainian troops launched another attempt to seize the plant late Friday, despite the presence of the IAEA monitors, sending 42 boats with 250 special forces personnel and foreign “mercenaries” to attempt a landing on the bank of the nearby Kakhovka reservoir. The ministry said that four Russian fighter jets and two helicopter gunships destroyed about 20 boats and the others turned back. It added that the Russian artillery struck the Ukrainian-controlled right bank of the Dnieper River to target the retreating landing party. The ministry claimed that the Russian military killed 47 troops, including 10 “mercenaries” and wounded 23. The Russian claims couldn’t be independently verified. The plant has repeatedly suffered complete disconnection from Ukraine’s power grid since last week, with the country’s nuclear energy operator Enerhoatom blaming mortar shelling and fires near the site. Local Ukrainian authorities accused Moscow of pounding two cities that overlook the plant across the Dnieper river with rockets, also an accusation they have made repeatedly over the past weeks. Read:UN inspectors arrive at Ukraine nuclear plant amid fighting In Zorya, a small village about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Zaporizhzhia plant, residents on Friday could hear the sound of explosions in the area. It’s not the shelling that scared them the most, but the risk of a radioactive leak in the plant. “The power plant, yes, this is the scariest,” said Natalia Stokoz, a mother of three. "Because the kids and adults will be affected, and it’s scary if the nuclear power plant is blown up.” Oleksandr Pasko, a 31-year-old farmer, said “there is anxiety because we are quite close.” Pasko said that the Russian shelling has intensified in recent weeks. During the first weeks of the war, authorities gave iodine tablets and masks to people living near the plant in case of radiation exposure. Recently, they’ve also distributed iodine pills in Zaporizhzhia city, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the plant. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered to take the role of “facilitator” on the issue of the Zaporizhzhia plant, in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency. The Ukrainian military on Saturday morning reported that Russian forces overnight pressed their stalled advance in the country’s industrial east, while also trying to hold on to areas captured in Ukraine’s northeast and south, including in the Kherson region cited as the target of Kyiv’s recent counteroffensive. It added that Ukrainian forces repelled around a half-dozen Russian attacks across the Donetsk region, including near two cities singled out as key targets of Moscow’s grinding effort to capture the rest of the province. The Donetsk region is one of two that make up Ukraine’s industrial heartland of the Donbas, alongside Luhansk, which was overrun by Russian troops in early July. Separately, the British military confirmed in its regular update Saturday morning that Ukrainian forces were conducting “renewed offensive operations” in the south of Ukraine, advancing along a broad front west of the Dnieper and focusing on three axes within the Russian-occupied Kherson region. “The operation has limited immediate objectives, but Ukraine’s forces have likely achieved a degree of tactical surprise; exploiting poor logistics, administration and leadership in the Russian armed forces,” the U.K. defense ministry tweeted. Russian shelling killed an 8-year-old child and wounded at least four others in a southern Ukrainian town close to the Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said.
UN inspectors arrive at Ukraine nuclear plant amid fighting
A U.N. inspection team entered Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Thursday on a mission to safeguard it against catastrophe, reaching the site amid fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces that prompted the shutdown of one reactor and underscored the urgency of the task. The 14-member delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in a convoy of SUVs and vans after months of negotiations to enable the experts to pass through the front lines and get inside Europe's biggest nuclear plant. “The IAEA is now there at the plant and it’s not moving. It’s going to stay there. We’re going to have a continued presence there at the plant with some of my experts,” IAEA director Rafael Grossi, the mission leader, declared after the group got its first look at conditions inside. Also read: UN inspectors head to Ukraine nuclear plant in war zone But he added: “I will continue to be worried about the plant until we have a situation which is more stable." As the experts made their way through the war zone toward the complex, Russia and Ukraine accused each other of shelling the area and trying to derail the visit. The fighting delayed the team’s progress. “There were moments when fire was obvious — heavy machine guns, artillery, mortars at two or three times were really very concerning, I would say, for all of us," Grossi said. Just before the IAEA team arrived, Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, said Russian mortar shelling had led to the shutdown of one of its reactors by its emergency protection system and had damaged a backup power supply line used for in-house needs. Also read: Eyes on Kherson as Ukraine claims bold move on Russians One of the plant’s reactors that wasn’t operating was switched to diesel generators, Energoatom said. Once inside the plant, Grossi said, his experts were able to tour the entire site, including control rooms, emergency systems and diesel generators. He said he met with the plant's staff and residents of the nearby village, Energodar, who asked him for help from the agency. He reported that the team had collected important information in its initial inspection and will remain there to continue its assessment. “It is obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times by chance, deliberately — we don’t have the elements to assess that," Grossi said. “And this is why we are trying to put in place certain mechanisms and the presence, as I said, of our people there.” The Zaporizhzhia plant has been occupied by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian engineers since the early days of the 6-month-old war. Ukraine alleges Russia is using it as a shield to launch attacks, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the area. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had tough words for the IAEA delegation. While applauding its arrival at the plant, he said independent journalists were kept from covering the visit, allowing the Russians to present a one-sided, “futile tour.” And he said that while Grossi agreed to support Ukrainian demands for the demilitarization of the plant — including the withdrawal of Russian forces from it — the IAEA has yet to issue such a call publicly. Fighting in early March caused a brief fire at its training complex, and in recent days, the plant was briefly knocked offline because of damage, heightening fears of a radiation leak or a reactor meltdown. Officials have begun distributing anti-radiation iodine tablets to nearby residents. Experts have also expressed concern that the Ukrainian staff is overworked and stressed out from the occupation of the plant by Russian forces — conditions they say could lead to dangerous errors. Grossi said after his initial tour that the Ukrainian employees are "in a difficult situation, but they have an incredible degree of professionalism. And I see them calm and moving on.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow expects “impartiality” from the team. “We are taking all the necessary measures to ensure that the plant is secure, that it functions safely and that the mission accomplishes all of its plans there,” he said. Ahead of the visit, Russia's Defense Ministry reported that Ukrainian forces unleashed an artillery barrage on the area and sent a group of up to 60 scouts to try to seize the plant on the Dnieper River. It said that the Ukrainian troops arrived in seven speedboats but that Russian forces “took steps to destroy the enemy,” using warplanes. Some of the Ukrainian shells landed 400 meters (yards) from the plant’s No. 1 reactor, Russian authorities said. The Russian-installed administration in Enerhodar reported that at least three residents were killed early Thursday by Ukrainian shelling. Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, accused Russian forces of shelling Enerhodar and a corridor that the IAEA team was set to go through. Neither side’s version of events could immediately be independently verified. The fighting came as Ukraine endeavored to start the new school year in the middle of a war. Just over half of the country's schools are reopening to in-person classes despite the risks. In other developments, authorities with the Russian-backed separatist government in the eastern region of Donetsk said 13 emergency responders were killed by Ukrainian shelling in Rubtsi, a village in neighboring Kharkiv province. Much of the fighting in recent weeks and months has centered on the area.
U.N. monitors head to troubled Ukraine nuclear plant
A team of international nuclear inspectors was heading Wednesday to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant caught in the middle of the fighting in southern Ukraine amid international concern of a potential accident or radiation leak. Rafael Grossi, the head of the the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he hoped to establish a permanent mission in Ukraine to monitor Europe’s largest nuclear plant. “These operations are very complex operations. We are going to a war zone. We are going to occupied territory. And this requires explicit guarantees from not only from the Russians, but also from the Republic of Ukraine,” Grossi said in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv before the monitoring the mission’s departure. “We have been able to secure that. ... So now we are moving.” The power plant has been occupied by Russian forces and operated by Ukrainian workers since the early days of the 6-month-old war. Also read: Russia, Ukraine trade claims of nuclear plant attacks It was recently cut off temporarily from the electrical grid because of fire damage, causing a blackout in the region and heightening fears of a catastrophe in a country haunted by the Chernobyl disaster. Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said Kyiv is seeking international assistance to try and demilitarize the area. “We think that the mission should be a very important step to return (the plant) to Ukrainian government control by the end of the year,” Galushchenko told The Associated Press. “We have information that they are now trying to hide their military presence, so they should check all of this.” Zaporizhzhia is a vital source of energy for Ukraine and remains connected to its power grid. Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of shelling the wider region around the nuclear power plant and the risks are so severe that officials have begun distributing anti-radiation iodine tablets to nearby residents. Grossi met Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the mission that is expected to last several days. The inspectors from the IAEA, a United Nations body, where due to reach the Zaporizhzhia region, 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of the Ukrainian capital, later Wednesday.
IAEA chief says mission to big Ukraine nuclear plant on way
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s long-awaited expert mission to the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine “is now on its way.” IAEA director general Rafael Grossi has long sought access to the Zaporizhzhia plant, Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest, which Russian forces have controlled since soon after the war began. “The day has come,” Grossi wrote on Twiter, adding that the Vienna-based IAEA’s “Support and Assistance Mission ... is now on its way.” “We must protect the safety and security of #Ukraine’s and Europe’s biggest nuclear facility,” he wrote. “Proud to lead this mission which will be in #ZNPP later this week.” Grossi posted a picture of himself with 13 other experts. Read:Ukraine, Russia trade more blame on threats to nuclear plant Russia and Ukraine have traded claims of strikes at or near the plant in recent days, intensifying fears that the fighting could cause a massive radiation leak.
Russia, Ukraine trade claims of nuclear plant attacks
Russia and Ukraine traded claims of rocket and artillery strikes at or near Europe's largest nuclear power plant on Sunday, intensifying fears that the fighting could cause a massive radiation leak. Ukraine's atomic energy agency painted an ominous picture of the threat Sunday by issuing a map forecasting where radiation could spread from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which Russian forces have controlled since soon after the war began. Attacks were reported over the weekend not only in Russian-controlled territory adjacent to the plant along the left bank of the Dnieper River, but along the Ukraine-controlled right bank, including the cities of Nikopol and Marhanets, each about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the facility. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that Ukrainian forces had attacked the plant twice over the past day, and that shells fell near buildings storing reactor fuel and radioactive waste. "One projectile fell in the area of the sixth power unit, and the other five in front of the sixth unit pumping station, which provides cooling for this reactor,” Konashenkov said, adding that radiation levels were normal. The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency also reported Sunday that radiation levels were normal, that two of the Zaporizhzhia plant's six reactors were operating and that while no complete assessment had yet been made, recent fighting had damaged a water pipeline, since repaired. In another apparent attack Sunday, Russian forces shot down an armed Ukrainian drone targeting one of the Zaporizhzhia plant's spent fuel storage sites, a local official said. Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed regional official, said on the Telegram messaging app that the drone crashed onto a building's roof, not causing any significant damage or injuring anyone. Nearby, heavy firing during the night left parts of Nikopol without electricity, said Valentyn Reznichenko, the Dnipropetrovsk region's governor. Rocket strikes damaged a dozen residences in Marhanets, according to Yevhen Yevtushenko, the administration head for the district that includes the city of about 45,000. The city of Zaporizhzhia, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) up the Dnieper River from the nuclear plant, also came under Russian fire, damaging dozens of apartment buildings and homes and wounding two people, city council member Anatoliy Kurtev said. Russian forces struck a Zaporizhzhia repair shop for Ukrainian air force helicopters, Konashenkov said. Read:Ukraine, Russia trade more blame on threats to nuclear plant Neither side's claims could be independently verified. Downriver from the nuclear plant, Ukrainian rockets hit the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant and adjacent city three times on Sunday, said Vladimir Leontyev, the head of the Russia-installed local administration. The plant's dam is a major roadway across the river and a potentially key Russian supply route. The dam forms a reservoir that provides water for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. The radiation map Ukraine's nuclear agency Energoatom issued showed that based on wind forecasts for Monday, a nuclear cloud could spread across southern Ukraine and southwestern Russia. Release of the map may have been meant to warn that if Russian forces were responsible for a radiation leak, their own country would suffer. In the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, the world's worst atomic energy catastrophe, radiation spread from Ukraine to several neighboring countries. Authorities last week began distributing iodine tablets to residents who live near the Zaporizhzhia plant in case of radiation exposure. Much of the concern centers on the cooling systems for the plant’s nuclear reactors. The systems require electricity, and the plant was temporarily knocked offline Thursday because of what officials said was fire damage to a transmission line. A cooling system failure could cause a nuclear meltdown. Periodic shelling has damaged the power station’s infrastructure, Energoatom, said Saturday. “There are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is high,” it said. The IAEA has tried to work out an agreement with Ukrainian and Russian authorities to send a team to inspect and secure the plant, but it remained unclear when the visit might take place. In eastern Ukraine, where Russian and separatist forces are trying to take control, shelling hit the large and strategically significant cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, with no casualties reported, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk region's governor. Konashenkov said Russian missile strikes killed 250 Ukrainian soldiers and reservists in and near Sloviansk. Ukrainian officials didn't comment on the claim, in keeping with their policy of not discussing losses. Sloviansk resident Kostiantyn Daineko told The Associated Press that he was falling asleep when an explosion blew out his apartment windows. “I opened my eyes and saw how the window frame was flying over me, the frame and pieces of broken glass,” he said. Russian and separatist forces hold much of the Donetsk region, one of two Russia has recognized as sovereign states. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed again Sunday to re-take the separatist areas. “The invaders brought degradation and death and they believe that they are there forever,” Zelenskyy said Sunday in his nightly video address. “But it’s a temporary thing for them. Ukraine will return. For sure. Life will return.”
Ukraine, Russia trade more blame on threats to nuclear plant
Fears about the potential for a radiation leak at Europe's largest nuclear power plant persisted Saturday as both sides traded blame for nearby shelling. Ukraine said Russian forces fired on areas just across the river from the plant and Russia claimed Ukrainian shells hit a building where nuclear fuel is stored. Authorities were distributing iodine tablets to residents who live near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in case of radiation exposure, which can cause health problems. Much of the concern centers on the cooling systems for the plant's nuclear reactors. The systems require power to run, and the plant was temporarily knocked offline Thursday because of what officials said was fire damage to a transmission line. A cooling system failure could cause a nuclear meltdown. Russian forces occupied the nuclear plant complex early in the 6-month-old war, but local Ukrainian workers have kept it running. The Ukrainian and Russian governments have repeatedly accused the other of shelling the complex and nearby areas, raising fears of a possible catastrophe. Periodic shelling has damaged the power station's infrastructure, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, Energoatom, said Saturday. "There are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is high,” it said. The governor of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, Valentyn Reznichenko, said Saturday that Russian Grad missiles and artillery shells hit the cities of Nikopol and Marhanets, each located 10 kilometers (6 miles) across the Dnieper River from the plant. But Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukrainian forces had fired on the plant from Marhanets. Over the past day, 17 Ukrainian shells hit the plant, with four striking the roof of a building that stores nuclear fuel, he said. It was not immediately possible to verify either account. The U.N.‘s atomic energy agency has tried to work out an agreement to send a team in to inspect and help secure the plant. Officials said preparations for the visit were underway, but it remained unclear when it might take place. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said it was essential for International Atomic Energy Agency representatives to get to the plant as soon as possible and to help keep it "under permanent Ukrainian control.” Read:Ukraine: Russia fires on cities not far from nuclear plant “The situation remains precarious and dangerous,” Zelenskyy said Friday in his nightly address. “Any repetition of (Thursday's) events, i.e., any disconnection of the station from the grid or any actions by Russia that could trigger the shut down of the reactors, will once again put the station one step away from disaster.” Ukraine has claimed Russia is using the power plant as a shield by storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it. Moscow, for its part, accuses Ukraine of firing on the nuclear complex. The dispute over the plant led Russia late Friday to block agreement on the final document of the four-week-long review of the U.N. treaty that is considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament. The draft document of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference criticized Russia's takeover of the Zaporizhzhia plant. The deputy head of Russia's delegation said the conference became “a political hostage” to countries that were trying “to settle scores with Russia by raising issues that are not directly related to the treaty.” Elsewhere in Ukraine, one person was killed and another wounded in Russian firing in the Mykolaiv region, local government officials said. Mykolaiv city is an important Black Sea port and shipbuilding center. The governor of the eastern Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said Saturday that two people were killed in Russian firing on the city of Bakhmut, a significant target for Russian and separatist forces seeking to take control of the parts of the region they do not already hold. The British government said Saturday that it was giving Ukraine underwater drones and training sailors to use them to clear mines from the ravaged country's coastline. Mines laid in the Black Sea during the war have hampered seaborne exports of Ukrainian grain to world markets, although an agreement reached in July has allowed shipments to resume along a single corridor. More than 1 million metric tons of Ukrainian foodstuffs have been shipped since the start of August under the Black Sea grain deal, the United Nations said Saturday. The flow of grain under deal has driven down prices, reduced the risk of food insecurity and allowed the World Food Program to restart wheat purchases from Ukraine for drought-hit countries such as Ethiopia and Yemen.
Fears of a radiation leak mount near Ukrainian nuclear plant
Authorities began distributing iodine tablets to residents near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Friday in case of a radiation leak, amid mounting fears that the fighting around the complex could trigger a catastrophe. The move came a day after the plant was temporarily knocked offline because of what officials said was fire damage to a transmission line. The incident heightened dread of a nuclear disaster in a country still haunted by the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl. Continued shelling was reported in the area overnight, and satellite images from Planet Labs showed fires burning around the complex — Europe’s biggest nuclear plant — over the last several days. Iodine tablets, which help block the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland in a nuclear accident, were issued in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 45 kilometers (27 miles) from the plant. A woman and her small daughter were among those receiving the pills. The U.N.’s atomic energy agency has been trying to send a team in to inspect and help secure the plant. Officials said preparations for the trip were underway, but it remained unclear when it might take place. The Zaporizhzhia plant has been occupied by Russian forces and run by Ukrainian workers since the early days of the 6-month-old war. The two sides have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the site. In Thursday’s incident, Ukraine and Russia blamed one another for the transmission-line damage that knocked the plant off the power grid. Exactly what went wrong was not clear, but Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy said the plant’s emergency backup diesel generators had to be activated to supply electricity to operate the complex. The plant requires power to run the reactors’ vital cooling systems. A loss of cooling could lead to a nuclear meltdown. Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s transmission system operator, reported Friday that two damaged main lines supplying the plant with electricity had resumed operation, ensuring a stable power supply. The country’s nuclear power agency, Energoatom, said the plant had been reconnected to the grid and was producing electricity “for Ukraine’s needs.” Read: Ukrainian fears run high over fighting near nuclear plant “The nuclear workers of Zaporizhzhia power plant are real heroes! They tirelessly and firmly uphold the nuclear and radiation safety of Ukraine and the whole of Europe on their shoulders,” the agency said in a statement. Russia-installed officials in the Zaporizhzhia region, however, said that the plant was supplying electricity only to Russia-controlled areas of the country and not the rest of Ukraine. Concerns about the site have reverberated across Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron said a visit by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency should be allowed to take place “very quickly,” warning: “Civilian nuclear power must not be an instrument of war.” Lana Zerkal, an adviser to Ukraine’s energy minister, told Ukrainian media that the logistics for an IAEA visit were still being worked out. Zerkal accused Russia of trying to sabotage the visit. Ukraine has claimed Russia is using the plant as a shield by storing weapons there and launching attacks from around it. Moscow, for its part, accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on the place. Zaporizhzhia’s reactors are protected by thick, reinforced concrete containment domes that experts say can withstand an errant artillery shell. Many of the fears center instead on a possible loss of the cooling system, and also the risk that an attack on the cooling ponds where spent fuel rods are kept could scatter radioactive material. Continued Russian shelling of Nikopol, a city across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia plant, damaged 10 houses, a school and a health care facility but caused no injuries, Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said.