Radiation leak fears at Ukraine nuclear plant after ‘shelling by Russian army’

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FEARS of a radiation leak are mounting at Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant as Russian forces continue to blast the site.

Ukraine’s state energy operator said Moscow’s troops had “repeatedly shelled” the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant over the last day, sparking a massive fire risk.

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Satellite images taken by Planet Labs show smoke rising from fires at ZaporizhzhiaCredit: AP

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A Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power StationCredit: AP

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Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been at the centre of heavy fightingCredit: Reuters

“Due to the presence of the Russian military, their weapons, equipment and explosives at the power plant, there are serious risks for the safe operation of the ZNPP,” Energoatom said.

“As a result of periodic shelling, the infrastructure of the power plant has been damaged, there are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is high.”

Ukraine and Russia have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the site.

Russia’s defence ministry claimed Ukrainian forces “shelled the territory of the station three times” in the last day.

But Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky warned “the worst case scenario… is constantly being provoked by Russian forces”.

It comes as Ukraine reportedly agreed on Saturday to end its agreement with Russia to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy.

The Zaporizhzhia facility was seized by Russian troops in the opening weeks of the February invasion and has remained on the front line ever since.

Fears that the site could be the scene of a catastrophic nuclear disaster are mounting as both Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of putting the plant at risk.

The plant was disconnected from the grid for the first time ever on Thursday after fire damage to overhead power lines caused the last two reactors to be cut off.

Ukraine and Russia blamed one another for the transmission-line damage that knocked the plant off the power grid.

It’s not clear what went wrong, but Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said the plant’s emergency backup diesel generators had to be activated to supply electricity.

The plant requires power to run the reactors’ vital cooling systems – and a loss of cooling could lead to a nuclear meltdown.

Many of the radiation fears centre on a possible loss of the cooling system – and the risk that an attack on the cooling ponds where spent fuel rods are kept could scatter radioactive material.

As fears of a radiation disaster loom, iodine tablets were issued in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia – about 27 miles from the site.

The pills help block the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland in the case of a nuclear disaster.

Ukraine knows better than any other country on Earth the risks associated with nuclear power.

Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the north of the country exploded and went into meltdown while under Soviet control back in 1986.

The UN’s atomic energy agency has been trying to send a team in to inspect and help secure the power plant to avert a crisis.

Officials said preparations for the trip are underway – but it remained unclear when it might take place.

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