The Wall Street Journal reports:
Russian shelling in southern Ukraine caused a fire at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant before Russian troops took control of the area, according to local authorities and international observers, raising fears that Moscow’s increasingly indiscriminate war could cause a global environmental disaster.
The fire, extinguished Friday morning, erupted at the Zaporizhzhia power plant’s training facility, Ukraine’s emergency service said. None of the plant’s six reactors, one of which is currently operational, were affected and there was no radiation leak. Both sides said Russian troops at the complex weren’t interfering with the plant’s staff.
Still, the skirmish sparked international outrage and fanned fears of a repeat of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl that sent a vast plume of radioactive steam circling the world and left the region surrounding the plant inhabitable.
Russian forces pushing from the south reached Enerhodar, where Zaporizhzhia is located, on Wednesday. After surrender negotiations failed, a Russian column attacked the city on Thursday. Webcam footage showed a fireball rising behind a church in the city, a short distance from the nuclear facilities, and then two munitions, possibly illumination rounds, landed on the compound itself. [Continue reading…]
For the moment, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex appears safe, with the plant’s array of sensitive detectors finding no releases of radioactivity above the usual background levels.
The vast site, on the Dnieper River roughly a hundred miles north of Crimea, hosts not only six reactors whose cores are full of highly radioactive fuel but also many acres of open ponds of water where spent fuel rods are submerged to cool off, typically for years. Experts fear that an errant shell or missile might set off an environmental disaster and, if a fire broke out, release clouds of radioactive particles that get carried by the wind around Europe.
“The thing you worry about is an ignorant soldier who is scared and fires off a rocket or a mortar that causes a calamity,” said David Albright, a physicist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear arms and matériel.
An accident of that nature could pose enormous dangers to Ukrainians and people in surrounding countries, including Russia. [Continue reading…]