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The Russia-Ukraine War: Breaking News – The New York Times

Written by Javed Iqbal

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

DRUZHKIVKA, Ukraine – Ukrainian officials have been sounding the alarm for months. The world’s nuclear watchdog agency warned this week of the extraordinary risks. Then on Friday, artillery duels near a giant nuclear power plant on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine created new security risks.

Explosions in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power complex – the largest in Europe – around 2:30 p.m. destroyed electrical transmission lines and risked damaging the plant, forcing engineers to change the operation of one of its six reactors by reducing power, the state nuclear company, Energoatom, said.

Hours later, another series of three explosions damaged an auxiliary building near one of the nuclear reactors, raising the risk of hydrogen leaks and fire, the company said.

Fighting has intensified in recent weeks near the nuclear complex, which the Russian military controls and uses as a fortress, even as Ukrainian engineers continue to operate it.

For about a month, Russia has used the site to stage artillery strikes on Ukrainian targets without fear of retaliation, as the Ukrainian military cannot fire back without risking hitting security equipment, reactors or spent fuel storage facilities. Ukrainian officials say the Russians are aiming to disrupt a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the country’s south.

After the explosions on Friday afternoon severed a high-voltage power line, plant operators reduced the output of one of the reactors. Previously, three of the six reactors at the plant were operating, two were on standby and one was undergoing scheduled repairs.

It was not clear whether the reactor, whose operation was altered on Friday, was switched to a standby status, said Dmytro Orlov, a former plant engineer who is now mayor of Enerhodar, where the plant is.

“This is an unusual event, but not unpredictable,” he said. “The staff was prepared.” He compared it to emergency response in the case of an electrical line being damaged by a wildfire or other accident.

Energoatom, the state power company, released a statement on the Telegram social network saying Russian artillery fire had cut the power line. “The Russian military again resorted to provocation,” the company said. It said an industrial area on the grounds of the complex was hit three times, hitting the wires and a transformer.

The statement said operators reduced production and disconnected one reactor from the electrical grid. “Releases of radioactive substances were not recorded,” the statement said.

Russian state media blamed Ukrainian forces for the explosions and reported that they had caused a fire.

Hours later, the energy company reported another attack on Telegram, saying the Russians had fired three rocket-propelled grenades that landed near one of the nuclear reactors. The explosions, the statement said, damaged an auxiliary building and a specialized station. “The fire risk is high,” the company said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was aware of the reports and is seeking further information on the situation.

Ukrainian officials say they have little choice but to endure the Russian bombardment. In July, Ukraine’s military intelligence service said it had used a precision-guided “kamikaze” drone, which explodes on contact with a target, to destroy a Russian rocket launcher and air defense system located about 150 yards from a reactor without damaging the reactor. itself.

The IAEA has warned of serious dangers from the facility’s situation. The cornerstones of nuclear safety, it said, are being knocked out of the plant even as it continues to operate. Among the shortcomings, it said, is a lack of physical security and regulatory oversight, which is in limbo now.

Those concerns were echoed by Britain’s Ministry of Defense on Friday. In its daily intelligence update, the ministry said Russian troops “likely undermined the security” of the facility by using it as a base to “target Ukrainian territory on the western bank of the Dnipro River.”

Fighting around the complex in March had caused a fire that raised global concerns about a possible nuclear accident.

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Javed Iqbal

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