Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine 

Ukraine warns of radiation leak at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Concern about the potential for a radiation disaster at Europe's largest nuclear power plant in wartorn Ukraine persists as Kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of attacks near the facility. The latest assessment came after Russia blocked a United Nations agreement on preventing an uncontrolled nuclear arms race.

By Stefan J. Bos

Residents living near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine have received iodine tablets as authorities warn of radiation exposure.

Ukraine's state energy operator says there are "risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances" at the Russian-occupied plant.

Russia and Ukraine also accuse each other of shelling the area around the nuclear station.

Desperate people walk between their heavily damaged or even completely ruined homes. "This is my house," a man said. "The roof got torn off. The walls were deformed inside the house. There is nothing left of my house."

An older woman struggled to halt back her years as she showed the wreckage of what was her home. "We are punished, but we don't know why," she said as she recalled the suspected Russian shelling.

Still, smoldering debris litters the landscape. People now fear more shelling and possible nuclear radiation.

Nuclear agreement failure

The tensions around the plant have already had international repercussions. A month-long meeting on nuclear disarmament failed at the United Nations as Russia blocked the final draft of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Treaty, reviewed by its 191 signatories every five years, aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. But Russia objected because of what it said were "political" aspects of the final draft text.

The draft expressed "grave concern" over military activities around Ukrainian power plants, such as the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia station.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is trying to negotiate access to the plant for an urgent inspection mission "to help stabilize the nuclear safety and security situation there."

But that may be too late for the tens of thousands of residents in the Zaporizhzhia area. "There was shelling here, hands and legs were torn off, people got wounded," a woman noticed.

And there appears to be no end to Europe's biggest battles since the Second World War.

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28 August 2022, 16:26