The Russian-held Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine, at the center of international concern amid mutual accusations of shelling by Moscow and Kyiv, is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Recent fighting around the power plant has prompted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to warn of a “very real risk of nuclear catastrophe”, while Kyiv has accused Moscow of “nuclear terrorism”.
Fear of a possible accident has brought back haunting memories of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in then-Soviet Ukraine, which left hundreds dead and spread radioactive contamination across Europe.
Here are some key features of the facility:
– Story –
Located near the town of Energodar on the Dnipro River, the plant has six of Ukraine’s 15 reactors – enough to power four million homes.
The reactors were all switched on between 1984 and 1995, according to the Ukrainian state agency Energoatom, which operates the plant.
Before the war, the plant generated around a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity.
The country, which has significant uranium deposits, is the seventh largest producer of nuclear energy in the world, according to the IAEA.
It began developing nuclear energy in the 1970s with the construction of Chernobyl near the capital Kyiv and has greatly improved nuclear safety in the years since that catastrophic event.
The Zaporizhzhia facility is “relatively modern,” Imperial College London’s Mark Wenman previously told the Science Media Centre, noting that its reactor components are housed in a heavily reinforced containment building that is “resistant to extreme external events, both natural and human.” caused, can withstand. like plane crash or explosions”.
– Capture –
The power plant, located near the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, was captured by Russian forces on March 4 after a battle in the early days of the Moscow invasion.
The fighting caused a fire at a training facility. Firefighters said they were prevented from reaching the fire for hours.
Energoatom initially shut down two of the reactors – and recently a third – but the plant continues to be operated by Ukrainian technicians under Russian control.
The IAEA has repeatedly said it wants to organize an inspection of the facility.
Ukrainian authorities initially denied it, but officials have been less adamant about the prospect lately.
– Fighting Again –
Ukraine on July 21 accused Moscow of stockpiling heavy weapons at the factory after Russia said Ukrainian troops fired on the facility.
Energoatom said Russia placed over two dozen pieces of military equipment and ammunition in the engine room of the first reactor.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Moscow is using it as a “military base to fire on Ukrainians, knowing they cannot and will not fire back”.
On August 5, Ukraine accused Russian forces of conducting strikes near a reactor. Russia said Ukraine is behind them.
After the attacks, Energoatom said it had to shut down another reactor because of damage to a power cable.
Another reactor is repaired, which means that only two reactors are still working.
Ukraine says there are around 500 Russian soldiers at the factory and has called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone.
Despite the tensions, Energoatom has said it is still in contact with the facility and receiving radiation monitoring data.
It was said on Monday that the radiation levels had not changed.
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