Reports of rocket attacks at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant emerged late this week. Who attacked the plant, why and what has been damaged has been difficult to ascertain.
Previously, Russia set up missile launchers at the plant and began using them to launch attacks. On July 18, Ukraine used a suicide drone to attack a group of command tents on the plant grounds. Reports that came out around the same time revealed that Russian nuclear industry workers at the plant had begun using a nuclear bunker on site and widespread abuses and kidnappings of Ukrainian plant workers and townspeople were taking place. Reuters is reporting that the Russian occupiers have been storing weapons and have set up explosives in two of the reactor units.
The attacks took place Saturday and another on Sunday night.
It was reported that Russian nuclear industry workers at the plant rushed to the nuclear bunker on site right before one of the rocket attacks on the plant.
Known damage at the plant due to the recent attacks:
A worker was injured by shrapnel and radiation monitoring equipment was damaged by the strike on the spent fuel dry cask facility. A damaged cask could be an extremely deadly, catastrophic event that could require the evacuation of the plant site.
The IAEA has again condemned the attacks and occupation of the plant and insisted they be allowed access to the site that has been blocked by Russian occupiers.
The plant sits on the south side of the river in territory currently occupied by Russia. The plant has been used as a launching ground for assaults on Ukrainian-held territory as a sort of nuclear shield, similar to how Russian troops used Chernobyl to launch an attack on Kyiv. Ukraine’s nuclear regulator cited risks for hydrogen leakage or the release of radioactive particles but didn’t get into deeper detail. One of the reactor units initiated emergency safety systems due to the attack. It is unclear which units are running on diesel generators currently if any due to the offsite power damage. The plant only has enough fuel to run generators for 3 days, if any of the reactors need to run on backup power, resupplying diesel fuel to the plant will be critical to prevent further incidents. Ukrainian officials also claimed Russians have set land mines at the power plant along the river.
The damage to the nitrogen/oxygen plant and the AUX building is particularly concerning. The nitrogen/oxygen system is used to control hydrogen build-up in the reactors and in reactor systems. Without this system, there is the potential for an explosive build-up of hydrogen in the reactor or in the coolant piping and systems. Hydrogen build-up was cited at both Fukushima and Three Mile Island as contributing factors to the catastrophic failure of the involved reactors. The AUX building typically contains various safety-significant reactor systems such as radioactive waste systems, chemical and volume control systems, and emergency cooling water systems. Damage to an AUX building has the potential to cause a catastrophic reactor accident.
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