NewsWorldInside Ukraine's Power Plant, Concerns of a Nuclear Disaster...

Inside Ukraine’s Power Plant, Concerns of a Nuclear Disaster Grow

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CNN investigation reveals findings on massacre in Ukraine 4:47 Kyiv, Ukraine (CNN) — Every day, Olga travels by bus from her home in the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar, on the banks of the Dnipro River in southeastern Ukraine. , to the nearby Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, where he works. The plant, the largest nuclear complex of its kind in Europe, is the focal point of growing global concern after increased bombing raids have raised fears of a possible nuclear accident and prompted calls for international experts to visit the facility. Kyiv has repeatedly accused Russian forces, who seized the plant in March, of storing heavy weapons inside the compound and using it as a bastion to launch attacks, knowing that Ukraine cannot return fire without risking hitting one of the plant’s six reactors, a mistake that would spell disaster. Meanwhile, Moscow has claimed that Ukrainian troops are attacking the site. Both sides have tried to point fingers at the other for threatening nuclear terrorism. For Olga and her Ukrainian colleagues who still work at the plant, the possibility of a nuclear disaster is not just a nightmare, it is a daily reality. It’s “like sleeping and looking at a dream,” he told CNN in a recent phone interview, describing the surreal and prolonged shock he experienced working at the plant, which while in the hands of Russian forces, is still operated primarily by Ukrainian technicians. . In the months since the nuclear facility was captured, Ukrainian employees have slowly begun to return, carrying out tasks in partially destroyed rooms and only coming into contact with Russian soldiers when they pass through two checkpoints to enter the complex. “After the occupation, only operational staff worked at the station. There were many broken and burned rooms and windows. Then they gradually started going to ask people to come to work for specific tasks,” said Olga, whose name has been changed to protect your identity. “Now the part of the staff that did not leave is working. Between 35 and 40% of the workers left.” Reduced staff and the outbreak of fighting are making working conditions increasingly precarious. Ukraine and Russia swapped blame again after more shelling around the plant occurred overnight on Thursday, just hours after the United Nations called on both sides to cease military activities near the nuclear power plant, warning of the worst. if they didn’t. “Sadly, instead of de-escalation, there have been reports in recent days of other deeply worrying incidents which, if they continue, could lead to disaster,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “I urge the removal of any military personnel and equipment from the plant and to prevent any further deployment of forces or equipment to the site.” Addressing a UN security council meeting in New York on Thursday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said recent attacks had destroyed parts of the plant, risking a possible “unacceptable” radiation leak and asked that a team of experts be urgently allowed access to the site, where the situation “has been deteriorating very rapidly.” A view of the Zaporizhia plant from Nikopol, across the Dnipro River. “This is a serious hour, a grave hour, and the IAEA must be allowed to carry out its mission in Zaporizhia as soon as possible,” Grossi said. Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company, on Thursday accused Russian forces of attacking a storage area for “radiation sources” and bombing a fire department near the plant. A day later, the company said in a statement on its Telegram account that the plant was operating “at the risk of violating radiation and fire safety regulations.” Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi said on Friday there was “no proper control” over the plant and Ukrainian specialists who remained there were not allowed access to some areas where they should be. CNN cannot confirm the details provided by Energoatom or Monastyrskyi, but Grossi has said that some parts of the plant were not operational. Olga also confirmed that parts of the complex are inaccessible to Ukrainian personnel. Russia has continued to accuse Ukraine of being behind the attacks. A local occupation administration official, Vladimir Rogov, told Russia’s state news agency Rossiya 24 on Friday that there was “constant damage” to the plant’s power transmission line and suggested the complex could be “deactivated.” “, without any explanation of how that could happen. Ukrainian authorities say Russian rockets fired from the nuclear power plant have hit the city of Nikopol, on the right bank of the Dnipro River, and surrounding districts over the past week. At least 13 people were killed in the shelling overnight Tuesday and several more were injured on Wednesday and Thursday nights, including a 13-year-old girl, according to local officials. Many buildings in Nikopol have been damaged due to Russian attacks, according to Ukrainian officials. In recent months, Olga said she has seen Russian military equipment arrive at the nuclear complex, though much of it is now hidden from view. “Initially, there was equipment on the territory of the station, now there is even more,” she said, adding that employees are not allowed to enter the areas where they are stored. But when she returns home from work, the power of the Russian fire is clear, she said. “The horrors happen at night, they are bombing the city. “The incoming hit on the right bank (of the river) shakes so much that the houses shake and the windows shake. It’s eerie in the silence of the night when people sleep,” she added. Across the Dnipro, in Nikopol, the attacks now feel relentless. A woman assesses the damage on a street in Nikopol, where residents say they live under an incessant barrage of rockets. From the window of her house near the city’s port, Oksana Miraevska can look across the water and see the oncoming barrage of shells. “If something happens with the plant, some accident… I can’t think about that. Do you think someone can help us? We are 7 kilometers from the nuclear power plant on the other side of the river! Nothing will save us, I’m sure,” Miraevska, a 45-year-old small business owner, told CNN in a phone call. “That’s why I don’t even entertain that thought.” When the shelling broke out last month, Miraevska said many residents fled in panic, but she stayed behind trying to help out locally, mainly by taking in abandoned pets. At night, she and her teenage son take the animals down to their basement-turned-air-raid shelter, where they all sleep. “When they started shelling us, life in general changed. I live in the basement, we go there for the night. We have been sleeping there for a month,” Miraevska said. “I don’t think the enemy should be underestimated,” she added. It is the same message echoed by international experts warning of the disastrous impact that an errant projectile could cause. Last weekend, shells damaged a dry storage facility — where containers of nuclear fuel used at the plant are kept — as well as radiation monitoring detectors, making it impossible to detect any potential leaks, according to Energoatom. . The attacks also damaged a high-voltage power line and forced one of the plant’s reactors to shut down. That increase in bombardment pushed the IAEA to intensify its efforts to send an expert mission to visit the plant to assess and safeguard the complex. While an initial assessment by experts found “no immediate threat to nuclear safety” at the plant, Grossi said Thursday that “this could change at any time.” He added that while the agency was in frequent contact with Ukrainian and Russian authorities about the plant, the information provided was “contradictory.” Demands for a cessation of hostilities have grown during the last week. The G7 group of major industrialized nations issued a statement from their meeting in Germany on Wednesday calling on Russia to withdraw its forces and hand over control of the plant to Ukraine. The statement blamed the Russian military, which the G7 countries said were “significantly increasing the risk of a nuclear accident or incident and endangering the population of Ukraine, neighboring states and the international community.” A State Department spokesman said Thursday that the United States backed calls to maintain a “demilitarized zone” around the nuclear power plant and demanded that Russia “cease all military operations in or near Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.” CNN’s Olga Voitovych, Yulia Kesaieva and Anna Chernova contributed to this report.

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