A fire at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe that resulted from a Russian attack has sparked alarm tonight though officials said that radiation levels at the plant have not yet changed.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Ukraine informed it today a large number of Russian tanks and infantry “broke through the block-post” to the town of Enerhodar, near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
The Ukraine regulatory authority told IAEA that Russian infantry troops were moving directly toward the plant. “The battle is going on in the town of Enerhodar and on the road to the ZNPP (Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant) site,” the letter said, adding that the situation was “critical.”
“Russian army has opened fire on Zaporizhzhia NPP. No state except Russia has ever opened fire at nuclear power units,” said Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a statement tweeted by the country’s foreign ministry. “For the first time in human history, a terrorist state has resorted to nuclear terror. Only immediate European action can stop Russian troops.”
“Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Fire has already broke out,” tweeted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. “If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!” Ukrainian emergency services officials later said the fire broke out in a training building beyond the plant perimeter.
The White House said President Biden spoke with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine this evening to receive an update on the fire. “President Biden joined President Zelenskyy in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site,” the statement said.
Biden also spoke this evening with Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Jill Hruby to receive an update on the situation.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted that she spoke with Ukraine’s energy minister about the situation and the department activated its Nuclear Incident Response Team, which is monitoring events in consultation with the Defense Department and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“We have seen no elevated radiation readings near the facility,” Granholm said. “The plant’s reactors are protected by robust containment structures and reactors are being safely shut down.”