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Russian attack on the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant: what happened and what follows from it

Date: October 2, 2022 Time: 19:46:30

On Thursday night, as a result of a Russian attack, a fire broke out at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Energodar, in the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine in the southeast of the country. The plant has been on fire for several hours, and earlier the fire could not be controlled because Russian attacks in the area did not stop. There were no casualties, but the plant is now controlled by Russian troops.

Why does this hub matter?

Built between 1984 and 1995, Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and ninth in the world. Each of its six reactors generates 950 megawatts for a total of 5,700 megawatts, enough to power approximately four million homes.

In normal times, it produces a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity and accounts for almost half of all nuclear energy generated in the country.

The plant is located in Energodar, a city in the south-east of Ukraine, on the banks of the Kayovsky reservoir of the Dnieper River. It is about 200 km from the disputed Donbass and 550 km southeast of Kyiv.

What happened early this Friday morning?

A fire broke out in a test building outside the plant early Friday after shelling by Russian troops, according to Ukrainian authorities.

A plant employee was the first to raise the alarm, posting on messaging service Telegram that Russian troops had shelled the site and that there was a “real threat of nuclear danger” at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Ukraine’s foreign minister confirmed the reports at 2:30 a.m., tweeting that the Russian military was “shelling the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, from all sides.” “The fire has already broken out,” he wrote, calling for an immediate ceasefire so firefighters can bring the fire under control.

The Russian army is shelling the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, from all sides. The fire has already flared up. If it explodes, it will be 10 times bigger than Chernobyl! The Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!

— Dmitry Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 4, 2022

Shortly thereafter, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported that the station’s radiation was “within normal limits” and that the station’s fire conditions were “normal”. He also said the fire started in a building outside the factory.

They later reported that the station’s third power unit was shut down at 2:26 a.m., leaving only one of the station’s six units, number four, in operation.

At 4:20 am, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine announced that the fire had been extinguished. Just two hours later, at 06:13, the Zaporozhye Regional Military Administration announced that the power plant had been taken over by Russian troops.

Early reports of an incident at the plant sent Asian financial markets plummeting, with stocks falling and oil prices rising even higher.

Is there a radiation threat?

The Ukrainian authorities said this Friday morning that the site was secured and that “nuclear safety is now guaranteed.”

Earlier, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the Ukrainian regulator said that “there were no changes in radiation levels at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant site.” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi early in the morning asked to stop the use of force and warned of the danger of an attack on the nuclear reactors of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.

The United States also reported that their latest reports did not indicate elevated levels of radiation at the station. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said the reactors are “protected by strong containment structures and the reactors are safely shut down.”

The Russian army has already captured the abandoned Chernobyl power plant, 100 kilometers north of Kyiv. Some analysts point out that the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant is of a different and safer type than Chernobyl, where the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred in 1986.

Tony Irwin, an honorary adjunct professor at the Australian National University, said the likelihood of an explosion, nuclear meltdown or radioactive release is low. Irvine has operated nuclear power plants in the UK for three decades and is one of the former leaders of the Australian Open Pool Light Water Reactor (OPAL), Australia’s only nuclear reactor.

According to Irwin, the Zaporozhye pressurized water reactors (PWRs) are “much safer” than those at Chernobyl and appear to be intact yet. He explains that the reactors have built-in fire protection and large concrete containment systems. “Obviously launching giant rockets at reactors is a bad idea.”

“PWR is a much safer type of reactor because it is a bypass reactor, the water that keeps the reactor cool is in a separate circuit from the secondary circuit that actually supplies power to the turbine and out. he says. “These reactors also have auxiliary cooling systems for emergencies; in addition to conventional reactor cooling, they have a passive system with high pressure injection systems and low pressure injection systems.”

Translated by Francisco de Zarate.

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