UN Secretary General António Guterres believes potential damage to the Zaporizhzhia plant could be “suicide” and Turkey’s president has said no-one wants another Chernobyl – the world’s worst nuclear accident when Ukraine was under Soviet rule.
Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday rejected a proposal by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to demilitarise the area around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, saying it would make the facility “more vulnerable”.
The plant, Europe’s largest of its kind, was captured by Russia in March, shortly after President Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what he called a “special military operation”.
Russia seized the site on the left bank of the River Dnieper at the start of its war but this month the two sides have accused each other of repeatedly shelling it.
Each claims the other is planning a provocation. Ukraine says a Russian film crew has already staged a shelling to blame on Kyiv. Russian defence officials have produced a map showing how a radioactive cloud might spread from the plant from Ukraine to neighbouring countries, including Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
What, then, is the risk to this nuclear plant which houses six reactors and is Europe facing a Fukushima-type meltdown?
“I wouldn’t be too worried,” says Mark Wenman, head of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Nuclear Energy Futures. “Zaporizhzhia was built in the 1980s, which is relatively modern. It has a solid containment building. It’s 1.75m (5.75ft) thick, of heavily reinforced concrete on a seismic bed, and it takes a hell of a lot to breach that.”