Russia is putting the world at risk of a new nuclear catastrophe, says Ukraine’s PM.
According to British intelligence, Russian occupying forces in Ukraine have built defensive positions at the reactors of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) in Enerhodar. By reinforcing their positions, the Russians are preparing for a counterattack by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. At the same time, their actions increase the probability of damage to security systems.
The UK Ministry of Defence’s Twitter account published a satellite image on April 27 showing the occupiers’ defensive positions at the Zaporizhzhia NPP.
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Russia seized the NPP in March 2022, but this is the first evidence to suggest that the reactors have been included in tactical defence planning.
The agency suggests that the Russian army constructed these positions because it was increasingly concerned about the prospects of a major Ukrainian offensive. These actions by the occupiers increase the likelihood of damage to Zaporizhzhia’s security systems in the event of hostilities around the plant.
“However, direct catastrophic damage to the reactors is unlikely in the most likely infantry weapons scenarios because the structures are very heavily fortified,” the intelligence agency added.
The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, Zaporizhzhia NPP was seized by Russian occupiers after fighting in Enerhodar on March 4, 2022. The plant’s structures were damaged by Russian shelling in several places, and plant workers were taken captive.
It is worth noting that just this week (on April 26, the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster), Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the actions of the Russians in the future could lead to a terrible disaster that would surpass the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in scale.
“Today, Russia’s barbaric attacks near Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and its transformation into a military base put the world at risk of a new catastrophe,” Shmyhal believes.
Russian troops have established firing positions at Zaporizhzhia NPP and are bombarding Ukrainian cities from there.
Intelligence says that this move likely increases the chance of damage to Zaporizhzhia NPP’s security systems if hostilities take place around the plant.
Previously, the US Department of Energy warned in a letter to the Russian stateowned nuclear power corporation Rosatom of the consequences if it interfered with classified nuclear technology housed at the now-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
CNN reported that in a March 17 letter, seen by the network, that Andrea Ferkile, head of the US Energy Department’s Office of Nonproliferation Policy, told Rosatom’s director general that the Zaporizhzhia plant “contains nuclear technical data of American origin that are under the export control of the United States government.”
Ferkile warned that Russian individuals are prohibited from accessing such data and technology without a separate authorisation from the US Secretary of Energy, or it would be considered a violation of US law.
The US Department of Energy confirmed to CNN that the letter to Rosatom was genuine, but declined to comment on its contents. At the same time, it is unknown whether the Russian side responded to it.
Since being occupied by Russia, Zaporizhzhia NPP has been subject to shelling – for which Moscow blames Kyiv – and has repeatedly been disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid. Physically, the plant is maintained by Ukrainian personnel under occupation, but is operated by Rosatom.
US involvement in the operation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP prior to the full-scale Russian invasion was not secret: the US Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Administration reported in June 2021 that it had helped implement new maintenance procedures at the plant.
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