Bombs at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant: Concerns about the “biggest nuclear catastrophe in history” are growing

Bombs at Zaporizhia nuclear plant
Concerns about the “greatest nuclear catastrophe in history” are growing

Ukraine, Germany and the UN Security Council are concerned about renewed fighting in the vicinity of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian troops. The Atomic Energy Agency IAEA recognizes a “very real danger”. Kyiv and Moscow blame each other for the attacks.

In the Ukraine war, there are growing concerns about a nuclear catastrophe at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which is occupied by Russian troops. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russia could cause “the greatest nuclear catastrophe in history” in Zaporizhia – with even worse consequences than the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Heavy shelling has been reported from the area around Zaporizhia for days. The UN Security Council therefore called an emergency meeting to take place in New York in the evening (local time).

Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the attacks on the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. Zelenskyy said in a video link at the start of a donor conference in Copenhagen that Russia was a “terrorist state” that was taking the nuclear power plant “hostage” in the Ukraine war and using it for “blackmail”.

According to Ukrainian sources, 14 people were killed in bomb attacks in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant on Wednesday night. On Thursday night, three people were killed by Russian rocket attacks in the city of Nikopol, which is about a hundred kilometers from the nuclear power plant on the other bank of the Dnipro. Massive Russian shelling was also reported from Donbass in eastern Ukraine. According to the governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, eleven civilians were killed within 24 hours, including six in Bakhmut and three in the neighboring town of Soledar.

“Very real threat of nuclear catastrophe”

In view of the clashes between Russia and Ukraine, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has also warned of a nuclear catastrophe. Ahead of the emergency UN Security Council meeting on Zaporizhia requested by Russia, Guterres said he was “deeply concerned.” “Regrettably, there has been no de-escalation in recent days, but reports of more deeply worrying incidents. If these continue, it could spell disaster.” Alongside China, France, Great Britain and the USA, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and has the right of veto there – a condemnation of Moscow is thus ruled out.

At the meeting, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, wanted to inform the 15 member states of the Security Council about the situation at the nuclear power plant and also comment on nuclear safety issues. According to the IAEA, he also wanted to respond to efforts to send an expert mission to the nuclear power plant “as soon as possible”. At the weekend, the IAEA was already “alarmed” by the situation on the ground and warned of a “very real danger of a nuclear catastrophe”.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, who is responsible for nuclear safety, also called for the nuclear power plant to be inspected by the IAEA. “In order to get an objective picture of the actual security situation on site,” independent experts from the IAEA should have access, Green Party politician Lemke told the newspapers of the Funke media group. The situation in Zaporizhia was “confusing and dangerous,” said Lemke. There was a lack of concrete and reliable information on the situation in the nuclear power plant. The IAEA must be able to launch a mission there “as soon as possible”. “In addition, the nuclear power plant must be placed under complete Ukrainian control again and all acts of war involving the nuclear power plant must be stopped,” Lemke demanded.

“Targeted genocide of the Ukrainian people”

Located in the south of Ukraine, the plant is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and has six of the 15 Ukrainian nuclear reactors. It has been occupied by the Russian army since early March. The G7 countries urged Russia on Wednesday to withdraw its army from the nuclear power plant site. “It is Russia’s continued domination of the nuclear power plant that is endangering the region,” the G7 foreign ministers said in a joint statement.

On Tuesday evening, the Ukrainian operator Energoatom accused the Russian side of wanting to connect the nuclear power plant to the power grid of the occupied Crimean peninsula. In addition, the power lines of the plant, which are connected to the Ukrainian power grid, would be damaged.

The Latvian parliament has meanwhile classified Russia as a “terror-supporting state” because of the war of aggression against Ukraine. MEPs passed a resolution condemning violence against civilians as terrorism and “targeted genocide against the Ukrainian people”. Specifically, the MPs referred to the use of banned cluster munitions in the Ukraine war.

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) sees no major dangers for Germany from the fighting over the Ukrainian nuclear power plant at Zaporizhia. The risk for Germany in the event of a nuclear disaster in Zaporizhia is “relatively low,” said the head of the radiological emergency response department at the BfS, Florian Gering, to “”. According to an older study, “fortunately only in 17 percent of all weather conditions could contaminated air reach Germany,” explained Gering. “Of course, it can also happen that the wind is in such a way that contaminated air would come to Germany.”

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