Over the weekend, Ukraine’s state nuclear power generator Energoatom reported rockets were fired at the city of Enerhodar by Russian forces, hitting the site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant–Europe’s largest nuclear facility– with rockets said to hit next to storage of spent nuclear fuel.
Following the incident, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for actions from the West to impose additional sanctions on Russia’s nuclear industry, “for creating the threat of a nuclear disaster.” The embattled country also called for demilitarizing the nuclear complex and for the global nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency to be allowed to investigate the area.
Energoatom head Petro Kotin said that around “500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy machinery, including tanks, trucks and armoured infantry vehicles were at the site,” part of southern Ukraine controlled by the Russians.
However, Russia said it is Ukraine who’s actually blocking the visit, arguing that it is taking Europe hostage by shelling the facility.
“They are taking the whole of Europe hostage and are not against setting fire to it for the sake of their Nazi idols,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Following the attack, Russia could up the militaristic tenor of the site, according to Energoatom. The company said that Kremlin’s Major General Valerii Vasyliev, who now commands the garrison at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, threatened that the area could end up “a scorched desert.”
“As you know, we have mined all the important facilities of the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant. And we’re not hiding it from the enemy. We warned them. The enemy knows that the station will be either Russian or no-one’s. We are prepared for the consequences of this step,” Vasyliev reportedly told his troops at the site.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for support to the IAEA “to create the conditions of stabilisation of that plant.”
“Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing. I hope that those attacks will end, and at the same time I hope that the IAEA will be able to access the plant,” Guterres said.
Given that the recent attack hit near the facility’s radioactive spent nuclear fuel containers, Kotin is sounding the call as well to deescalate the situation–otherwise, it risks another 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
However, nuclear expert Dr. Mark Wenman downplayed the potential risks of a nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia facility, saying that protection measures are relatively strong.
“Although it may seem worrying, and any fighting on a nuclear site would be illegal …the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still small,” Dr. Wenman said in a statement.
Information for this briefing was found via Reuters, France 24, and Ukrainska Pravda. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.