Back in March, pretty early into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia took control of a city called Zaporizhzhya, which is also home to a nuclear power plant. At the time, the plant was struck, but luckily there was no damage to the nuclear reactor. Russia also raised global nuclear war fears at the time by putting its nuclear forces on high alert at the start of the invasion. This was particularly worrying considering Russia’s policy on using nuclear weapons if the state is “under threat."
Now, Ukraine is trying to take back some of that territory, and it’s accusing Russia of turning the nuclear plant into a military base. This is a volatile situation because any attack on the plant could result in a nuclear accident. Ukraine already has a history of that kind of thing, being the home of the Chernobyl disaster that happened in the 80s.
Ukraine also accused Russia of causing problems at the plant, saying there was a recent incident that took two workers to the hospital with shrapnel injuries and that three radiation sensors had been damaged, adding, “timely detection and response in case of aggravation of the radiation situation or leakage of radiation from spent nuclear fuel casks are currently impossible."
So far, after several shelling incidents near the plant in the last week, both countries are pinning responsibility for the attacks on each other. On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Ukraine was making the situation more dangerous every day, accusing it of “taking Europe hostage."
“Any attack on nuclear power plants is a suicidal thing," said UN chief Antonio Guterres, demanding that IAEA inspectors have access to the plant.
“There is no such nation in the world that could feel safe when a terrorist state fires at a nuclear plant," Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy said
“They [Russian forces] use it [the power plant] like a shield against the Ukrainian forces, because nobody from Ukraine is going to do something," said Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency, to the BBC.
“Although it may seem worrying, and any fighting on a nuclear site would be illegal … the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still small," said Dr. Mark Wenman, a nuclear expert at Imperial College London, in a statement.