Zaporizhzhia: Ukraine carries out nuclear disaster drill near Russian-occupied power plant

·2-min read
Ukrainian emergency responders attending a nuclear disaster drill in Zaporizhzhia (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian emergency responders attending a nuclear disaster drill in Zaporizhzhia (AFP via Getty Images)

A drill has been carried out in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia to prepare for the possibility of a nuclear disaster at a Russian-controlled power station.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the largest in Europe and ninth largest in the world - and has been under Russian control since it was taken over in March during the first weeks of the Ukraine invasion.

Moscow and Kyiv have blamed each other for recent shelling attacks on the plant, which is held by Russian troops and operated by Ukrainian workers.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian Emergency Ministry rescuers dressed in hazmat suits could be seen attending a drill in Zaporizhzhia - preparing for the possibility that a nuclear incident occurs at the site.

Members of Ukraine’s State Emergency Service attend nuclear disaster response drills amid shelling of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (REUTERS)
Members of Ukraine’s State Emergency Service attend nuclear disaster response drills amid shelling of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (REUTERS)

Ukraine remains scarred by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster - considered the worst in history - which saw a Soviet-era reactor explode in the north of the country, pumping radiation into the atmosphere.

International alarm has grown as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been targeted by shelling - with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky accusing Russia of “threatening the whole world”.

On Sunday, a group of 42 countries including the UK and United States issued a joint statement calling on the Kremlin to withdraw troops from the power plant so a safety inspection can be carried out.

The coalition previously said Russia’s presence at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities “significantly raises the risk of nuclear incidents and accidents”.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

In their statement this week, they said Russia’s deployment of soldiers and weaponry at the Zaporizhzhia power plant “is unacceptable” and disregards safety principles of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - an international organisation promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

They wrote: “The presence of Russian military forces at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant prevents the operator and the Ukrainian authorities from fulfilling their nuclear and radiation safety obligations in accordance with international conventions and IAEA safety standards, and prevents the IAEA from fulfilling its safeguards mandate.

People in hazmat suits attend nuclear disaster response drills in Zaporizhzhia (REUTERS)
People in hazmat suits attend nuclear disaster response drills in Zaporizhzhia (REUTERS)

“We urge the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military forces and all other unauthorised personnel from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, its immediate surroundings, and all of Ukraine so that the operator and the Ukrainian authorities can resume their sovereign responsibilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and the legitimate operating staff can conduct their duties without outside interference, threat, or unacceptably harsh working conditions.

“This will also enable the IAEA to carry out its verification pursuant to Ukraine’s safeguards obligations under safe and secure conditions and in a timely manner.”