Radiation disaster fears grow as Putin’s forces are accused of shelling Ukraine nuclear plant

  • Ukrainian scientists warn of new risk that ‘radioactive substances’ could escape
  • ‘Hydrogen leakage’ and high fire hazard are also a danger, Energoatom states
  • Putin’s army fired shells and rockets at parts of plant once again, Kyiv claims
  • Enerhodar residents have been handed iodine tablets in latest radiation fears

Russia was today again accused of shelling Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant as the Ukrainian scientists in charge warned that ‘radioactive substances’ could leak.

Operator Energoatom wrote via Telegram this afternoon that Russian bombing and weapons storage at the site posed ‘serious risks’ to the Zaporizhzhia power plant.

They wrote: ‘Over the past day, the Russian military has repeatedly shelled the site. The damage is currently being investigated.  

‘As a result of periodic shelling, the infrastructure of the station has been damaged, there are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is high.

Russia was accused of aiming rockets at the fragile site once again (June image of rocket fire)

Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant was disconnected for the first time in history last week

Locals in neighbouring Enerhodar have been handed iodine tablets amid radiation fears

‘The Ukrainian staff of [Zaporizhzhia] continues to work and make every effort to ensure nuclear and radiation safety.’

As of midday local time, they added, the site ‘operates with the risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards’.

‘Ukraine calls on the world community to take immediate measures to force Russia to release [Zaporizhzhia] and transfer the power plant to the control of our state for the sake of the security of the whole world.’

Russia accused Ukraine of shelling the plant, claiming 17 missiles were fired by Kyiv forces in the past 24 hours alone.

Kremlin defence spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said: ‘The Kyiv regime continues acts of nuclear terrorism at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.’

Both sides’ claims remain independently unverified.

Locals in nearby Enerhodar have been prescribed iodine tablets in case radioactive leaks pose a threat to the resident population in the 50,000-strong town.

A mission from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to visit next week.

Russia and Ukraine have continued to trade blame for shelling near the plant, which on Thursday sparked fires in the ash pits of a nearby coal power station that disconnected the plant from the power grid for the first time in its 30-year history.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday the situation at Zaporizhzhia remained ‘very risky’ after two of its six reactors were reconnected to the grid following shelling.

Energoatom said on Friday evening that both of the plant’s two functioning reactors had been reconnected to the grid and were again supplying electricity after they were fully disconnected on Thursday.

The Russian ministry, in its daily briefing, also said it had destroyed a large ammunition depot in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region that had contained US-made HIMARS rocket systems and shells for M777 Howitzers.

The Russian Air Force shot down a MiG-29 aircraft in the eastern Donetsk region, the ministry said, and destroyed another six missile and artillery weapons depots in the Donetsk, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions.

Meanwhile dramatic surveillance footage shows the moment a Russian puppet official who switched sides in Ukraine was assassinated by resistance forces.

Askyar Laishev worked for Ukraine’s internal security service (SBU) before joining the Moscow-backed Luhansk People’s Republic as head of intelligence in 2014.

But members of Ukraine’s National Resistance in the war-torn Donbas, eastern Ukraine got revenge by bombing his car as he drove through the city on August 11.

It follows the similar killing of Putin official Ivan Sushko in Zaporizhzhia this week.

The National Resistance stated: ‘We emphasize once again that collaborationism is harmful to your health, so every traitor has vain hopes that retribution will not come to him.’

Why is a loss of power to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant so dangerous?

External power is essential to cool the two reactors still in operation at the Zaporizhzhia site.

Without electricity to power the pumps which keep the hot reactor core cool, nuclear fuel will start to melt. 

Last week, while the final power line was still connected, Ukraine’s nuclear agency said losing the supply would lead to this happening, ‘resulting in a release of radioactive substances to the environment’. 

A power supply is also vital to keep spent radioactive fuel stored in special onsite facilities cool.

Speaking last week, Professor Paul Norman, Professor of Nuclear Physics & Nuclear Energy at the University of Birmingham told the Science Media Centre that nuclear reactors need constant cooling, even after they have been shut down. 

He added that: ‘Damaging certain cooling systems could also prevent the reactor from properly cooling itself and lead to overheating – a ‘meltdown’.’ 

The plant has backup diesel generators to provide electricity if it is disconnected from the grid but Ukraine has warned these are unlikely to be reliable in the long-term.

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