Ukraine power plant at risk of catastrophic unlimited release of nuclear waste

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A huge nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine is at risk of releasing an "unlimited" amount of radioactive materials into the atmosphere after allegedly being shelled by Russian forces.

The Russian military took over the Zaporizhzhia plant – the largest nuclear power plant in Europe – on March 4 after a period of fierce fighting.

Since then, Ukrainian nuclear workers have been operating the facility under Russian control, Live Science reports.

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Attacks have resulted in widespread damage across the plant, according to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),with observers experiencing active shelling during their visit to the plant.

Just one of the plant's six reactors remains operational, and the facility has just one emergency backup power line left intact.

However, if the active reactor does not receive a constant flow of this coolant, a devastating meltdown could occur.

Mariano Grossi, the IAEA's director general, said on Tuesday (September 6) that something "very, very catastrophic could take place" if immediate measures aren't taken to secure the plant.

"This is why in our report we are proposing the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone limited to the perimeter and the plant itself," Mariano said at an emergency session of the UN Security Council.

The IAEA is seeking to consult with both Russia and Ukraine "immediately" to discuss the steps required to establish the security zone.

At the meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said a first step should be for both sides to stop all military operations around the plant.

"As a second step, an agreement on a demilitarized perimeter should be secured," he said. "Specifically, that will include the commitment by Russian forces to withdraw military personnel and equipment from that perimeter and the commitment by Ukrainian forces not to move in."

Ukraine has experienced a serious nuclear catastrophe in the past – most famously when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, when a meltdown occurred as a result of operational error.

The disaster caused scores of deaths and illnesses, along with severe environmental damage and the cordoning off of vast radiation exclusion zones.

In 2019, it was estimated that the decontamination effort had cost approximately $68billion (£56b)


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