A fire at a nuclear power station in Ukraine, the largest in Europe, is now out after overnight shelling by Russian forces.
The fire started in one of the training buildings on the compound of the nuclear power station, and while there has been some damage to the compartment of one of the reactors, authorities say it doesn’t impact the safety of the power unit.
Russian troops are now in control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station which is located in southern Ukraine on the Dneiper River. In normal times it produces about a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity, with a total capacity of 6,000 megawatts – enough to light up around four million homes.
Local officials said that measurements taken at 0700 EET on Friday morning showed radiation levels in the region “remain unchanged and do not endanger the lives and health of the population.”
The fire has now been put out, and there are no reports of fatalities, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service.
Leading nuclear authorities were concerned – but not panicked – about the damage to the power station. The assault triggered phone calls between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden; as well as German and Polish leaders. The US Department of Energy activated its nuclear incident response team as a precaution.
Trudeau described the attack on the nuclear facility “horrific” and “unacceptable” while Johnson said the Russian attack was “reckless” and says he will call an emergency meeting of the United Nations to discuss the situation.
In an emotional speech in the middle of the night, Zelenskyy said he feared an explosion that would be “the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe.”
“Only urgent action by Europe can stop the Russian troops,” he said. “Do not allow the death of Europe from a catastrophe at a nuclear power station.”
Zelenskyy accused the Russians of deliberately targeting the plant’s reactors using tanks with thermal imagine equipment.
IAEA to hold Friday press conference
The Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency will hold a press conference on Friday morning to give an update on the stiation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power station.
IAEA head Rafael Grossi said he was “deeply concerned” about the situation at Zaporizhizhia in a tweet and appealed to both Russia and Ukraine to “refrain from actions that can put nuclear power plants in danger.”
The office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will seek an emergency UN Security Council meeting following Friday’s overnight attack on the power station.
Johnson’s office says he spoke to President Zelenskyy in the early hours of the morning. He says Britain will raise the issue immediately with Russia and close partners.
Johnson’s office says he and Zelenskyy agree Russia must immediately cease attacking and allow emergency services unfettered access to the plant. The two agree a ceasefire is essential.
“The Prime Minister said the reckless actions of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe,” Johnson’s office said in a statement. “He said (the United Kingdom) would do everything it could to ensure the situation did not deteriorate further.”