Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, near the southern Ukrainian city of Energodar, has been set on fire amid Russia’s shelling of the facility, the power authority running the sprawling facility said.
“This is a threat of a worldwide significance,” a press release from the Zaporizhzhia AES power plant stated.
A Ukrainian government official quickly weighed in with a report of elevated radiation levels near Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant during shelling in the area. However, in an indicator of just how fluid the situation is, that report was quickly followed by a conflicting one: Background radiation levels remain unchanged at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the RIA news agency reported, citing a plant spokesman.
Separately, RIA quoted Ukraine’s emergency service as saying that the fire was outside the station perimeter, and that one of the blocks at the station had been switched off. Other wire reports quoted emergency sources as saying flames were at a training structure at the plant. Power operations were said to be secured, the plant director told wire services.
Origins of Fighting, Perils in the Flames
Intense fighting for the control of the plant, which supplies 20% of Ukraine’s energy, began Thursday, lasted hours and was ongoing. A livestream of the exterior structure showed a fire at one of the power blocks.
While an explosion was considered highly unlikely, plant personnel are perpetually concerned about the possibility of a meltdown, with effects similar to what happened at the Chernobyl plant in 1986. A meltdown could occur if there was a sustained interruption of the power supply required to keep the fuel rods continuously cooled.
“If it blows up, it could be 10 times larger than Chernobyl,” said Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs.
At press time, there was no indication of such an occurrence taking shape.
Some 100 armored vehicles and tanks were engaged in the battle, reports said.
Russian troops arrived at the plant on Wednesday. The road leading up to the plant, however, was blocked by defiant but unarmed citizens. They were encouraged to show up by the mayor of the town Dmytro Orlov.
Residents of the town placed sandbags and makeshift anti-tank obstacles made out of scrap metal to protect the plant.
The mayor led the peaceful crowd, which carried flags and sang the national anthem.
Newsmax wires contributed to this report.