The front line of the war in Ukraine has settled on parts of the Dnipro river. At one point, it is perilously close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. The dangers to the plant in the midst of the wartime chaos are high, and the world is on edge over the fate of the plant. The Wall Street Journal’s Ian Lovett and Jared Malsin report:
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine—Explosions shook Europe’s largest nuclear plant over the weekend, prompting fears that the war could unleash a nuclear catastrophe.
Located in the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar along the Dnipro river, which divides the Russian and Ukrainian forces in the area, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is now perilously close to the front lines of the fighting.
Each side blamed the other for shelling near the plant, which severed a high-voltage power line, prompting plant staff to close one of its six reactors over the weekend, according to the Ukrainian nuclear regulator, Energoatom. The plant has been controlled by the Russians since the early days of the war, but Ukrainian staff are still operating it.
“This time a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously avoided, but miracles cannot last forever,” Energoatom said on Telegram Sunday.
Roughly 500 Russian troops were at the nuclear station, where they have been entrenched for several weeks and are firing rockets at Ukrainian positions across the river, according to Ukrainian officials.
So far, Ukrainian authorities have said there has been no damage to the reactors and no radiological release. But rockets fired on Saturday night damaged three radiation monitors, Energoatom said on Telegram Sunday, and about 800 square meters of window surfaces in plant buildings were damaged due to fragments from explosions. One nuclear plant employee was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds.
More explosions around Enerhodar were reported on social media Sunday, but couldn’t be independently verified.
Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, wrote on Telegram Sunday that because of the hostilities and planned maintenance, only two of the nuclear plant’s six reactors were connected to the power grid.
“Due to the destruction of power grids, there is a danger that it will not be possible to withdraw electricity from the station,” he wrote. Energoatom has also accused Russia of trying to disconnect the nuclear station from the power grid, which could plunge much of southern Ukraine into darkness.
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