While Russian leadership is threatening the West with nuclear war, a new crisis has blossomed: Russian troops have bombed the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and officials there report it is on fire.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the largest of its kind in Europe, suffered from a shelling attack by Russian troops, the mayor of the nearby town of Energodar, Dmytro Orlov said. “As a result of continuous enemy shelling of buildings and units of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on fire,” Orlov said on his Telegram channel, citing what he called a threat to world security.
The Zaporizhzhia facility is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and is among the top 10 largest plants in the world. Located in southeastern Ukraine near the city of Enerhodar on the banks of the Kakhovka Reservoir on the Dnieper river, it has 6 pressurized nuclear reactors, each capable of generating 960 MW for a total power output of 5,700 MW. The first 5 reactors came online in the mid/late 1908’s; the 6th was added in 1995. The plant is responsible for 20% of all of Ukraine’s electrical needs.
Plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told Ukrainian television that shells were falling directly on the Zaporizhzhia plant 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.
Firefighters cannot get near the fire because they are being shot at, Tuz said.
Government officials have told reporters with the Associated Press that elevated levels of radiation were detected near the site of the plant.
The Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba confirmed it on Twitter and said an explosion at the nuclear plant could be 10 times worse than the Chernobyl disaster. “Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” Kuleba’s tweet said.
“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!”
This is the second nuclear facility attacked by Russia in recent days. Early in its invasion into Ukraine, Russian troops stormed across the unpopulated exclusion zone set-up around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster. There, some facilities were shelled and the plant workers responsible for keeping the aftermath of the disaster stable were captured and are still being held hostage.
At the time of the attack on Chernobyl, The White House condemned the hostile invasion of the nuclear disaster site and requested the release of hostages.
“We are outraged by credible reports that Russian soldiers are currently holding staff of the Chernobyl facilities hostage,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.. “This unlawful and dangerous hostage taking, which could upend the routine civil service efforts required to maintain and protect the nuclear waste facilities is obviously incredibly alarming and greatly concerning. We condemn it and we request their release.”
The White House has made no comment on this latest nuclear incident.
Radioactivity from the original 1986 Chernobyl disaster eventually did make its way around the globe, blown about by jet streams and air currents around the Earth’s atmosphere. While radioactivity levels were lethal at the exploded reactor, they became diluted as they moved away from the primary disaster site into other countries and continents. Workers, many that sacrificed their lives to do so, helped limit the reach of the disaster in the days and weeks after the 1986 disaster.
While radioactivity could spread across Europe and eventually the Northern Hemisphere if let unchecked at Zaporizhzhia, if first responders can’t reach the site on a timely basis, the issue could grow exponentially worse than Chernobyl ever was.