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Attacks on Ukraine nuclear plant – what’s at stake?


As the war in Ukraine continues, further shelling of the Zaporizhzhia power plant prompts fresh concerns over nuclear safety in the region.

Antony Froggatt and Dr Patricia Lewis explain the background of the nuclear facility and assess the possible risks.

Zaporizhzhia, one of the world’s largest nuclear power stations, is situated on the southern bank of the Dnipro River and, as of early August, in a region controlled by Russian military forces. Within days of the start of the war, Russian forces sought to take control of nuclear facilities in the north of Ukraine (Chernobyl) and in the southeast at Zaporizhzha. The unprecedented attack on Zaporizhzhia was followed by a military takeover of the facility on the 4th of March.  Despite the military confrontation, Ukrainian staff have continued to operate the plant and continue to do so to this day.

Although the shelling of the station did not result in the release of radiation, Olexiy Kovynyevis, an independent expert and former reactor supervisor, reports that shells hit the turbine buildings as well as the external power supply which was ‘almost completely disrupted’. Russian forces also took control of the Chernobyl site on the 24th of February and held it for five weeks before withdrawing on the 31st of March.

On the 19th of April communication between the plant and the Ukrainian regulator was restored.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN body charged with overseeing the civil nuclear industry, has subsequently been involved in delivering equipment and restoring the safeguards monitoring system.

Click here to continue reading the full version of this Expert Comment on the Chatham House website.


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