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Ukraine war news: Explosions reported at nuclear plant seized by Russia

Ukraine war news: Explosions reported at nuclear plant seized by Russia
attributed to him…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

DRAZKIVKA, Ukraine – Ukrainian officials have been sounding the alarm for months. The world’s nuclear watchdog warned of the unusual dangers only this week. Then on Friday, artillery duels near a giant nuclear power plant on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine created new safety risks.

Explosions in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex – the largest in Europe – at about 2:30 p.m. destroyed electrical transmission lines and posed the risk of damaging the plant, forcing engineers to alter the operation of one of its six reactors by power cuts, in Ukraine. State nuclear company Energoatom said.

Hours later, a second series of three explosions destroyed an additional building near one of the nuclear reactors, increasing the risks of hydrogen leaks and fires, the company said.

Fighting has intensified in recent weeks near the nuclear complex, which the Russian military controls and uses as a fortress, even as Ukrainian engineers continue to operate it.

For about a month, Russia has used the site to launch artillery strikes on Ukrainian targets without fear of retaliation, since the Ukrainian military cannot respond without the risk of hitting safety equipment, reactors, or spent fuel storage facilities. Ukrainian officials say the Russians are aiming to disrupt a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south of the country.

And after Friday noon explosions cut a high-voltage electric line, plant operators reduced production at one of the reactors. Previously, three of the plant’s six reactors were operating, two were in standby mode, and one was undergoing planned repairs.

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Dmytro Orlov, a former plant engineer who is now the mayor of Enerhodar, where the plant is located, said it was not clear if the reactor whose operation was changed on Friday had been brought into standby mode.

“This is an unusual but unpredictable event,” he said. The staff is prepared. He likened it to an emergency response if an electrical line was damaged by a massive fire or other accident.

Energoatom, the state electricity company, issued a statement on the social networking site Telegram, saying that Russian artillery fire had cut the electric line. “The Russian army has once again resorted to provocation,” the company said. She said an industrial space on the compound’s grounds was bombed three times, hitting the wires and the transformer.

The statement said operators have reduced production and disconnected one reactor from the electrical grid. “No releases of radioactive materials were recorded,” the statement said.

Russian state media blamed Ukrainian forces for the blasts and said they caused a fire.

Hours later, the energy company reported a second attack on Telegram, saying the Russians had fired three RPGs that landed near one of the nuclear reactors. The statement said that the explosions damaged an additional building and a specialized station. “The fire risk is high,” the company said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was aware of the reports and was seeking more information about the situation.

Ukrainian officials say they have few options but to withstand the Russian bombing. In July, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said it used a precision-guided “kamikaze” drone, which explodes on contact with a target, to destroy a Russian missile launcher and air defense system located about 150 yards from a reactor, without damaging the reactor. Itself.

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The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned of grave dangers from the station’s plight. She said the basic pillars of nuclear safety are being taken away from the plant even as it continues to operate. Among the shortcomings, she said, was the lack of physical security and regulatory oversight, which is something that is in trouble now.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense echoed those concerns on Friday. In its daily intelligence update, the ministry said that Russian forces had “likely undermined the security” of the plant by using it as a base “to target Ukrainian territory on the western bank of the Dnipro River”.

Fighting around the compound in March caused a Fire sparked global fears about a possible nuclear accident.