Fears for nuclear safety after shelling at Ukrainian power plant

Then, on Friday, explosions rang out at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex, the biggest of its kind in Europe, reigniting fears of a potential disaster.Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of shelling the plant, which was taken over by Russian forces in early March, along with the town of Enerhodar, where the complex is located.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Moscow for the attack, calling the strikes a “brazen crime” and an “act of terror.””Today, the occupiers created another extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe,” he said in his nightly address on Friday.The Russian defense ministry denied the claim, saying the Ukrainians had carried out three artillery strikes on the plant and surrounding area. The ministry added that the generating capacity of one unit at the plant had been reduced, and power supply to another cut. Ukraine’s state-run nuclear power operator, Energoatom, accused Russian forces of hitting Zaporizhzhia plant and using the complex as a staging ground for striking nearby targets, including many in the occupied city of Enerhodar and the nearby Ukrainian-controlled city of Nikopol.When fierce fighting first broke out near the facility in the early days of the war, it sparked fears of a nuclear incident and prompted condemnations from the international community. Russian troops forced its managers Several Western and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia is now using the giant nuclear facility as a fortress to protect their troops and stage attacks, because they assume Kyiv will not retaliate and risk a crisis.US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday accused Moscow of using the plant to shield its forces, and Ukraine has warned that shelling at the complex could be disastrous. “The possible consequences of hitting an operating reactor are equivalent to the use of an atomic bomb,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Friday on Twitter.The United Kingdom has said that the actions at the complex have undermined the safety of the plant’s operations.”Russian forces have probably used the wider facility area, in particular the adjacent city of Enerhodar, to rest their forces, utilizing the protected status of the nuclear power plant to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from overnight Ukrainian attacks,” Britain’s ministry of defense said Friday in an intelligence update on Twitter.The Ukrainian mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said in late July that Russian forces had been observed using heavy weaponry near the plant because “they know very well that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will not respond to these attacks, as they can damage the nuclear power plant.” CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Lauren Kent, Yulia Kesaieva and Petro Zadorozhnny contributed to this report.