Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant fire strike branded ‘utterly reckless’ by Irish Minister

A fire reportedly caused by shelling in the vicinity of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant landed close to reactors which if compromised could unleash radiation levels with deadly implications for people across Europe and beyond, experts have warned.

The Irish and British governments have condemned the reported strike which Ukraine said started the blaze. It is understood the fire has now been extinguished.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said this morning that it has been informed by Ukraine that the site of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) had been shelled overnight.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi immediately spoke with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal as well as the country’s national nuclear regulator and operator about the serious situation.

A sign with the radiation warning symbol is seen in front of the construction of the 'Duga' Soviet over-the-horizon (OTH) radar system near Chernobyl on November 22, 2018. - The radar, which was a part of the former Soviet Union missile defence radar system and is now located in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, was closed after the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP) (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

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In a statement this morning the IAEA said: “Director General Grossi appealed for a halt of the use of force and warned of severe danger if any reactors were hit. He is expected to hold a press conference at 10:30 CET on Friday.

“The Ukraine regulatory authority said a fire at the site had not affected ‘essential’ equipment and plant personnel were taking mitigatory actions. There was no reported change in radiation levels at the plant, it said.”

The IAEA is putting its Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) in full response mode due to the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP, Director General Grossi said.

The IAEA, scientists and governments around the world are closely monitoring developments at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which some reports are suggesting could unleash radiation levels ten times that of Chernobyl back in 1986.

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The IAEA said it had been informed by Ukraine that a large number of Russian tanks and infantry “broke through the block-post” to the town of Enerhodar, a few kilometres from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), Mr Grossi said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney TD Tweeted this morning that “Russia’s attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is utterly reckless”.

“Russia’s military activity in the area must cease immediately. This is a grave threat to the European continent,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the early hours of this morning about the “gravely concerning situation”.

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A statement from No. 10 stated: “Both leaders agreed that Russia must immediately cease its attack on the power station and allow unfettered access for emergency services to the plant.

“The Prime Minister said the reckless actions of President Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe. He said the UK would do everything it could to ensure the situation did not deteriorate further.

“The Prime Minister said he would be seeking an emergency UN Security Council meeting in the coming hours, and that the UK would raise this issue immediately with Russia and close partners.

“Both leaders agreed a ceasefire was crucial.”