UKRAINIANS near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant have been urged to evacuate the area amid mounting fears of a radiation leak.
Fighting in the region near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has intensified, prompting officials to issue a warning to residents.
Footage leaked from the nuclear power plant last week showed Russian Z-trucks parked just meters from the plant’s reactors.
Kyiv said Russian forces fired rockets and heavy artillery at the city of Nikopol – the capital that serves the nuclear power plant.
Mykola Lukashuk, the head of the Dnipro Region Council, said on Telegram: “The occupiers are deliberately shelling civilian objects to terrorize the population.”
The sustained shelling has sparked fears of a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster, prompting Ukraine to call on residents of Russian-held areas around the power plant to evacuate for their own safety.
The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk urged residents near the facility to evacuate.
She wrote on Telegram: “I appeal to the residents of the districts near the Zaporizhia NPP … evacuate!
“Find a way to get into the (Ukrainian) controlled area”.
The calls for evacuation come after Kiev warned it may have to shut down the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant to avoid a nuclear catastrophe.
Oleh Korikov, Acting Head of Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Agency, told a news conference: “The option to shut down the station will be considered if conditions arise that require the station to be shut down.
The shutdown of the six-reactor nuclear power plant also has consequences – if the reactors are not constantly swept with coolant, it could result in a meltdown of the plant, which would essentially cause massive explosions.
Korikov said the plant would meet its own electricity needs, but that backup diesel generators would have to be started if left unplugged.
He added: “We could potentially reach a situation where the diesel runs out, which would lead to an accident damaging the active zones of the reactors and releasing radioactive substances into the environment.
“This would not only have consequences for the territory of Ukraine, but also cross-border consequences.
A United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report released on Tuesday branded the situation at Zaporizhia “unsustainable” and warned that heavy shelling near the facility could lead to an “unlimited release” of radiation.
The report lists some of the damage inspectors who were observed while on duty at the facility.
She said the IAEA was “still seriously concerned about the situation at the ZNPP” and called for a security zone to be created around the facility.
The report read: “There is an urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident caused by physical damage caused by military means.
“This can be achieved through the immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone.
“The IAEA recommends that shelling at and around the site should cease immediately to prevent further damage to the facility and associated facilities.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the first step was to halt all military operations in the region.
He continued: “As a second step, an agreement should be reached on a demilitarized perimeter.
“This includes, in particular, the Russian Armed Forces’ pledge to withdraw military personnel and equipment from this perimeter and the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ pledge not to move in.”
Earlier, the head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, who visited the plant, warned of a very real risk of a nuclear catastrophe.
He said: “It is evident that the facility and the physical integrity of the facility have been violated several times.”
“Today we were able to gather a lot of information in these few hours. I saw the most important things I needed to see and their explanations were very clear.”
“I’m worried, I’m worried and I’ll continue to be worried about the facility.”
The nuclear power plant was disconnected from the power grid for the first time last month.
Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear agency that operates the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), said it was forced to shut down a reactor just before the UN team arrived on the scene.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/6176483/ukrainians-blitzed-nuke-plant-evacuate-risks-radiation-leak/ Ukrainians near blitzed nuclear facility urged to evacuate NOW as intense fighting ‘risks radiation leaks across Europe’