Russian forces on Friday seized the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant site—Europe’s largest nuclear power station—in southeastern Ukraine, the regional state administration said, following what officials said was shelling that caused a temporary fire at the site earlier in the day.
The plant is located in Enerhodar, a city on the Dnieper River. It accounts for one-quarter of Ukraine’s power generation.
“Operational personnel are monitoring the condition of power units,” the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration said on Friday, quoting the Ukrainian nuclear inspectorate, Eastern European news source Nexta reported.
A statement posted Friday on the website of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine reads: “The Zaporizhzhia NPP site has been seized by the military forces of the Russian Federation.”
It said that Russian forces “committed shelling the Zaporizhzhia NPP site” on Friday, which caused a fire at the site. “The fire was extinguished by the Ukrainian State Emergency Service units. Information on the dead and injured is absent,” the statement said.
The statement goes on to update on the state of the six power units at the site.
“Unit 1 is in outage. Units 2, 3 have been disconnected from the grid, and the cool down of the nuclear installations is being carried out. Unit 4 is in operation at 690 MW power. Units 5, 6 are being cooled down. Changes in the radiation situation have not been registered.”
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Twitter late Thursday local time that the reactors at the power station “are protected by robust containment structures and reactors are being safely shut down,” and that no elevated radiation readings near the facility were observed.
According to the Ukrainian nuclear inspectorate, if the nuclear fuel cannot cool down, there could be “significant radioactive releases into the environment.”
“As a result, such an event may exceed all previous accidents at nuclear power plants, including the Chornobyl accident and the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant,” it said.
“It shall be reminded that in addition to six power units at the Zaporizhzhya NPP site, there is a spent nuclear fuel storage facility, damage of which due to shelling will also lead to radioactive releases.”
Russian troops on Feb. 24 captured the defunct Chernobyl plant, located some 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. The following day, Ukrainian officials reported higher levels of radiation around the area.