[UPDATE: The fire at the power plant has been put out. The fire was extinguished as Russians seized control of the plant. Original story below.]
A fire broke out at the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine as Russian forces bombard the facility, leading Ukrainian officials to claim that the threat could be “10 times larger than Chernobyl,” if the power plant blew up.
“Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Thursday evening. “Fire has already broke out. If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”
Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Fire has already broke out. If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 4, 2022
The Associated Press reported that one of the facility’s six reactors has been set ablaze by the shelling according to a plant spokesman:
Plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told Ukrainian television that shells were falling directly on the Zaporizhzhia plant in the city of Enerhodar and had set fire to one of the facility’s six reactors. That reactor is under renovation and not operating, but there is nuclear fuel inside, he said.
A government official told The Associated Press that elevated levels of radiation were detected near the plant, which provides about 25% of Ukraine’s power generation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been publicly released.
However, it later reported that a U.N. official noted that none of the plant’s nuclear reactors were hit.
“In the atttack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, the chief of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said a Russian ‘projectile’ hit a training center, not any of its six reactors,” the AP reported.
Tuz added that firefighters are unable to subdue the flames due to the continued Russian bombardment. “We demand that they stop the heavy weapons fire,” he said in a video statement. “There is a real threat of nuclear danger in the biggest atomic energy station in Europe.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency said on social media that they are “aware of reports of shelling” at Zaporizhzhia and are “in contact with Ukrainian authorities” about the situation.
— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 4, 2022
The attack on the facility occurs one day after the United Nations adopted a resolution which demanded that Russian forces immediately “cease its use of force against Ukraine and withdraw its military forces.” 141 countries voted in favor of the resolution, and five countries — Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Russia, and Syria — voted against it. China and 33 other nations abstained from voting.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a primary topic of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. “Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways,” the commander-in-chief proclaimed. “But he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he met a wall of strength he never imagined.”
However, Oleksandra Ustinova — a Ukrainian member of Parliament — slammed Biden for his speech.
“To be honest, it was a total disappointment for us,” Ustinova said. “I can explain why: Today the whole world is watching Ukrainians being executed. I cannot name it the other way around. The right definition is an execution, because we see bombs going into our civilian houses every day; we see children dying every day on the streets and in their houses if they didn’t make it to the bomb shelter.”
“We see bombs coming to the orphanages, to the schools. And we had been promised protection by the international community; we gave up our nuclear weapons,” she continued. “And today when I see President Biden say that we’re going to protect every inch of the NATO territory, excuse me, we’ve been promised the same thing when we gave up our nuclear weapons. And now we’ve been given $1 billion in support?”