Fire at key nuclear power plant in Ukraine, no radiation emitted | National policy

By JIM HEINTZ, YURAS KARMANAU and MSTYSLAV CHERNOV – Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian firefighters put out a blaze Friday at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant that was ignited by a Russian attack and no radiation was emitted, UN officials said and Ukrainians, while the Russian forces pressed their campaign to cripple the country despite global condemnation.

The head of the United Nations atomic agency said a Russian “projectile” hit a training center at the Zaporizhzhia plant. Ukrainian officials said Russian troops have taken control of the entire site, but plant personnel continue to operate. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi lamented that Russian forces were at the plant, but the Ukrainians were in control.

Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator Enerhoatom said three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two injured in the attack. Grossi said two people were injured in the fire that broke out.

Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory authority said earlier that no change in radiation levels had been recorded so far after the attack on the plant. Grossi later said that no radioactive material was released.

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The attack caused global concern – and evoked memories of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, at Chernobyl in Ukraine.

The bombing of the plant came as the Russian army advanced towards a strategic town on the Dnieper near the location of the installation, and gain territory in their attempt to cut the country off from the sea. This decision would deal a severe blow to the Ukrainian economy and could aggravate an already dire humanitarian situation.

With the invasion in its second weekanother round of talks between Russia and Ukraine resulted in an agreement in principle to set up safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver humanitarian aid to the country, shattered by a war that has scarred more of a million people across the border and countless others sheltering underground night after night. A handful of towns have no heating and at least one is struggling to get food and water.

Initial reports conflicted over whether one or two fires broke out at the plant in the town of Enerhodar. Nuclear power plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told Ukrainian television overnight that shells fell directly on the facility and set fire to reactor No. not working, and to an administrative training building.

On Friday morning, officials only referred to a fire in the training building when they said all fires at the plant were out, which Grossi also confirmed. The regional military administration reported unspecified damage to the No. 1 reactor compartment, but said it did not affect the safety of the power unit.

The nuclear regulator said staff were surveying the site to check for further damage.

Grossi confirmed on Friday that the affected building was a training center and “not part of the reactor”. He said he didn’t know what hit the factory but called it a “projectile” from Russian forces.

He said only one reactor at the plant was operating, at around 60% capacity.

The confusion himself pointed out the dangers active fighting near a nuclear power plant. It was the second time since the invasion began just over a week ago that concerns about a nuclear accident or radiation release had materialized, following a battle at Chernobyl.

The regulator noted in a statement on Facebook the importance of maintaining the ability to cool nuclear fuel, saying the loss of such ability could lead to an accident even worse than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 or the Fukushima meltdowns. in 2011 in Japan. He also noted that there is a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel at the site, although there are no signs that the facility has been hit by shelling.

The main nuclear authorities were worried but not panicked. The assault led to phone calls between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden and other world leaders. The US Department of Energy has activated its Nuclear Incident Response Team as a precaution.

The Zaporizhzhia regional military administration said measurements taken at 07:00 (0500 GMT) on Friday showed that radiation levels in the region “remain unchanged and do not endanger the life and health of the population”. Nuclear officials from Sweden to China also said no radiation spikes had been reported.

“The fire at the (nuclear power plant) has indeed been extinguished,” Enerhodar mayor Dmytro Orlov announced on his Telegram channel on Friday morning. His office told The Associated Press that the information came from firefighters authorized to enter the site overnight.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in the ‘next hours’ to raise the issue of Russia’s attack on the factory, according to a statement from his office. .

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. Evacuation from Europe.

But most experts saw nothing that indicated impending doom.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the fire did not affect critical equipment and Ukraine’s nuclear regulator reported no change in radiation levels.

“The real threat to the lives of Ukrainians continues to be the violent invasion and bombardment of their country,” the American Nuclear Society said in a statement.

Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, said Russian shelling had ceased hours before dawn and residents of the city of more than 50,000 who had spent the night in shelters could return home. The city woke up without heat, however, as the bombings damaged the city’s heating supply, he said.

Heavy gunfire and rocket fire were heard late Thursday around the factory. Later, a live-streamed security camera linked to the factory’s homepage showed what appeared to be armored vehicles entering the facility’s parking lot and shining spotlights on the building where the camera was mounted. .

Then there was what appeared to be muzzle flashes from vehicles, followed by near simultaneous explosions in surrounding buildings. The smoke was rising in the frame and moving away.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have deployed their superior firepower over the past few days, launching hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites across the country and making significant gains in South.

The Russians announced the capture of the southern city of Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 280,000 people, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed the takeover of the seat of government there, making it the first big city to fall since the invasion started a week ago.

The troops, meanwhile, are advancing on Zaporizhzhia, a strategic town close to the factory of the same name. A Russian airstrike destroyed the Okhtyrka power plant on Thursday, leaving the northeastern city without heat or electricity, the region’s chief said on Telegram.

“We are trying to find a way to get people out of the city urgently, because in one day apartment buildings will turn into a cold stone trap without water, light or electricity,” said Dmytro Zhyvytskyy .

Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Sea of ​​Azov. The fighting destroyed the city’s electricity, heating and water systems, as well as most telephone services, officials said. Food deliveries to the city have also been cut.

Associated Press video from the port city showed the assault lighting up the darkening sky over deserted streets and medical teams treating civilians, including a 16 year old boy inside a clinic who could not be saved. The child was playing football when he was injured in the shelling, according to his father, who cradled the boy’s head on the stretcher and cried.

Ukraine’s defense minister said Friday that his navy’s flagship was scuttled at the shipyard where it was being repaired to prevent it from being seized by Russian forces. Oleksii Reznikov said on Facebook that frigate commander Hetman Sahaidachny decided to flood the ship.

“It’s hard to imagine a tougher decision for a brave soldier and crew,” Reznikov said.

Overall, the outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainians put up stiff resistance, preventing the quick victory that Russia seemed to expect. But Russia’s capture of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 gives it a logistical advantage now in the south of the country, with shorter supply lines that have facilitated the offensive there, a senior US official said. the defence, on condition of anonymity.

Ukrainian leaders called on the people to defend their homeland by cutting down trees, erecting barricades in cities and attacking enemy columns from the rear. In recent days, authorities have distributed weapons to civilians and taught them how to make Molotov cocktails.

“Total resistance. … This is our Ukrainian asset, and this is the best we can do in the world,” Oleksiy Arestovich, an aide to Zelenskyy, said in a video message, recalling guerrilla actions in occupied Ukraine by the Nazis during World War II.

During the second round of talks between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations on Thursday, Putin warned Ukraine that it must quickly accept the Kremlin’s demand for its “demilitarization” and declare itself neutral, giving up its candidacy for NATO.

Both sides said they had tentatively agreed to allow ceasefires in areas designated as safe corridors and would seek to work out necessary details quickly. An adviser to Zelenskyy also said a third round of talks will take place early next week.

The Pentagon has set up a direct communication link to the Russian Defense Ministry earlier this week to avoid the possibility of a miscalculation triggering a conflict between Moscow and Washington, according to a US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the link does not had not been announced.

Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Chernov reported from Mariupol, Ukraine. Sergei Grits in Odessa, Ukraine; Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman and Andrew Drake in Kyiv; and other AP reporters around the world contributed to this report.

Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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