Ukraine says Russia seized its largest nuclear power plant, but radiation levels are stable

Ukraine says Russia seized its largest nuclear power plant, but radiation levels are stable
  • Ukraine said on Friday that Russia took control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after fighting.

  • A Ukrainian official said the plant's "nuclear safety is now guaranteed."

  • Ukraine's president said Russia targeted it and must be stopped before "nuclear disaster."

Ukrainian officials said on Friday that Russia had seized its Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — the largest in the country and in Europe — but that radiation levels were safe.

Oleksandr Starukh, the head of the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, said in a Friday-morning statement that Russian forces had taken control of the plant after attacking it. The State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine also confirmed the Russian capture in a Friday Facebook post.

Starukh confirmed earlier reports that a fire had broken out at the plant amid intense fighting in the area, but that the fire was "localized."

Early on Friday morning, a video livestream from the plant appeared to show at least one building in flames, as well as intermittent explosions — which set off car alarms in the parking lot — tracer rounds, and a column of armored vehicles outside.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following shelling in black and white surveillance footage
Surveillance-camera footage showing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after Russian attacks on March 4.Zaporizhzhia NPP/YouTube via Reuters

"The fire that broke out was localized by our SES units. There was a fight. The nuclear power plant is currently under the control of the Russian military, which is responsible" for the fire, Starukh said, referring to the State Emergency Service.

But he added that the plant's "nuclear safety is now guaranteed," citing the facility's director, Agence France-Presse reported.

Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog, also told a press conference on Friday that there had been no release of radioactive material at the plant.

The State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine said employees were still working at the plant to keep it safe. It reported no changes in radiation levels but warned that could change.

Amid the attacks, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted that there were no signs of elevated radiation levels. She added, "The plant's reactors are protected by robust containment structures and reactors are being safely shut down."

She also described Russia's military operations near the plant as reckless and said they "must cease."

Energoatom, Ukraine's nuclear-power operator, said there were deaths and injuries among Ukrainian troops, but it didn't specify a number, CNN reported.

Ukraine says Russia targeted the plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of intentionally firing at the plant in a Friday Facebook post.

"Europe must wake up now. Europe's largest nuclear power plant is on fire. Right now, Russian tanks are firing upon nuclear units. These are tanks equipped with thermal imagers. That is, they know where they are shooting. They have been preparing for this!"

"There are 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine. If one of them blows, that's the end for everyone. That's the end of Europe," he said.

He told world leaders that they needed to stop Russia "before this becomes a nuclear disaster."

In a video posted on Telegram, Andriy Tuz, a spokesperson for the plant, accused Russia of shelling the facility, which he said provided a quarter of Ukraine's electricity.

"We demand that they stop the heavy weapons fire," Tuz said, the AP reported.

In a Friday statement, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA's chief, said the plant was hit by a Russian projectile.

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