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Situation at Ukrainian nuclear plant 'secured' after shelling by Russian forces caused fire

Situation at Ukrainian nuclear plant 'secured' after shelling by Russian forces caused fire

An image grab from footage obtained from a livestream from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Authority on Mar 4, 2022. (Image: Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Authority/AFP)

KYIV: Ukrainian authorities said the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was now secured, after a fire broke out on Friday (Mar 4) when the station was attacked by Russian troops. 

"The director of the plant said that the nuclear safety is now guaranteed. According to those responsible for the plant, a training building and a laboratory were affected by the fire," Oleksandr Starukh, head of the military administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, said on Facebook. 

Ukraine's emergency services said on Facebook that they had gained access to the plant. "As of (5.20am local time) at the Zaporizhzhia NPP in Energodar, State Emergency Service units went to put out the fire in the training building."

Forty people and 10 vehicles were involved in the operation, it added.

Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of resorting to "nuclear terror" and wanting to "repeat" the Chernobyl disaster after he said invading Russian forces shot at the nuclear power plant. 

A live feed of the site showed blasts lighting up the night sky and sending up plumes of smoke. 

"No country other than Russia has ever fired on nuclear power units. This is the first time in our history. In the history of mankind. The terrorist state now resorted to nuclear terror," he said in a video message.

"If there is an explosion, it is the end of everything. The end of Europe. This is the evacuation of Europe. Only immediate European action can stop Russian troops."

News emerged of the developing situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant when the mayor of Energodar, a nearby town, posted about heavy fighting in the area, which is roughly about 550km southeast of Kyiv. 

"As a result of continuous enemy shelling of buildings and units of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on fire," Mayor Dmytro Orlov had said on his Telegram channel. 

On Twitter, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote: "Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. 

"Fire has already broke out ... Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!"

He added: "If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone," Kuleba tweeted.

Zaporizhzhia provides more than a fifth of total electricity generated in Ukraine.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a tweet that it was "aware of reports of shelling" at the power plant and was in contact with Ukrainian authorities about the situation.

The agency said it had been told by Ukraine's regulator that there was "no change" in radiation levels at the site. 

"Ukraine tells IAEA that fire ... has not affected 'essential' equipment, plant personnel taking mitigatory actions," the watchdog added.

US President Joe Biden received an update on the fire from Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, joining him in "urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site", the White House said in a statement. 

Biden also received an update on the situation from the US Energy Department's under secretary for nuclear security, it said. 

A Biden administration official said there is no current indication of elevated radiation levels at the plant. 

As the biggest attack on a European state since World War ll enters its ninth day, thousands are thought to have died or been wounded, 1 million refugees have fled Ukraine and Russia's economy has been rocked by international sanctions. 

Source: Agencies/vc

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