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Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant shut down, but threat of disaster looms, expert says

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The shutdown of Ukraine’s degraded Zaporizhzhia nuclear energy plant has considerably lowered the chance of a radiation disaster, but the threat of a possible accident looms, given the high-risk circumstances. 

Former DIA intelligence officer Rebekah Koffler instructed Fox News the threat of a “Chernobyl-like catastrophic accident” consequently of the plant’s structural harm is “serious” but “efforts are underway to mitigate it.” 

FILE: This handout photograph taken from video and launched by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Aug. 7, 2022, exhibits a common view of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory below Russian navy management, southeastern Ukraine.
(Russian Defense Ministry Press Service by way of AP, File)

“There’s more attention now from the international community on this high-risk issue. This is a good thing. French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken with Putin directly,” Koffler mentioned. “The (International Atomic Energy Agency) chief warned that we are playing with fire, having conducted the inspection of the plant by the nuclear security team.” 

The final of the Russian-occupied plant’s six nuclear reactors was shut down on Sunday as a result of Russia’s warfare in Ukraine had repeatedly reduce dependable exterior energy provides. That energy is required to stop the reactors from overheating to a meltdown that would spew radiation by Ukraine, Russia, and different close by international locations. 

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Prior to Sunday, the plant’s sixth reactor was stored working to energy reactor cooling and different essential security gear after a fireplace knocked the plant off of all exterior transmission traces earlier this month. 

This “island mode” is unreliable and never designed to be greater than a stopgap measure, Ukrainian officers say. On Sunday, one plant related to Ukraine’s energy grid was restored, so the sixth reactor’s energy wasn’t wanted for the security techniques.

A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 22, 2022.

A view exhibits the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant within the course of Ukraine-Russia battle outdoors the Russian-controlled metropolis of Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia area, Ukraine August 22, 2022.
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

Koffler, creator of “Putin’s Playbook,” mentioned the problem has been made sophisticated by each Russia and Ukraine prioritizing profitable fight operations close to the plant on the expense of atomic security. Both sides, she mentioned, have blamed one another for the shelling, ready for the opposite to face down. 

“Neither side wants a nuclear disaster to happen but they may end up facing one, due to an unforeseen event given the high risk circumstances. A nuclear accident is not in the interests of the Russians because they would be affected by the radiative leak as well as the Ukrainians,” Koffler mentioned. 

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Ukraine’s second-largest metropolis, Kharkiv, and enormous components of the japanese Donetsk area have been affected by widespread blackouts on Sunday as Ukrainians continued their counteroffensive. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed Russian assaults on “critical infrastructure,” saying their purpose is to “deprive people of light & heat.” The Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Sumy areas have been additionally affected by partial blackouts. 

Koffler mentioned Ukraine doubtlessly dropping 20% of its electrical energy provides as a result of the Zaporizhzhia just isn’t absolutely operational would finally profit Russia.

A view shows residential buildings damaged by a military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine April 16, 2022. 

A view exhibits residential buildings broken by a navy strike, as Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk area, Ukraine April 16, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko)

“Russia is already laying the groundwork to blame Ukraine and the US for a potential accident,” Koffler mentioned, noting that Russian media is reporting that “Ukraine is planning a massive offensive operation around the ZNPP nuclear power plant, using US HIMARS and M777s. 

She added: “Moscow accused Zelenskyy of taking part in with nuclear terrorism. Whatever occurs, the Russians will spin this because the fault of the opposite aspect – Ukraine, US, and NATO.” 

If external power to the Zaporizhzhia plant is lost again, engineers could turn to 20 emergency backup diesel generators, as they’ve done at least once since the war began. The IAEA said only power from one diesel generator per reactor is needed to maintain safety. 

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While Ukrainian authorities have estimated that they have enough diesel fuel in storage to operate the safety systems for at least 10 days, Petro Kotin, the head of the plant’s operator, Energoatom, said last week, “Diesel mills are literally the station’s final protection earlier than a radiation accident will be anticipated.”

Fox News’ Paul Best and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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