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nuclear power plants, targets of the Russian army

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The attack by the Russian army on Friday, March 4, against the largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine shows how much this war represents “a huge threat to all of Europe and the world”reacted to the UN Security Council, which met urgently, the American ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

→ ANALYSIS. Ukraine: why Russia seized the Zaporizhia power plant

“This is the first time that a military conflict has taken place in a country with a large nuclear program”said Rafael Grossi, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He offered to go immediately to Ukraine to negotiate with Russia a solution that would keep nuclear power plants out of the conflict. On Sunday March 6, during a 1:45 a.m. conversation with Vladimir Putin, President Emmanuel Macron insisted on respecting the safety of power plants.

In Ukraine, residents rushed to pharmacies to try to find iodine pills, which help limit the effects of radioactive contamination. Many of them have traumatic memories of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

“A night that could have ended the country’s history”

The attack on the Zaporijjia power plant took place on the night of Thursday 3 to Friday 4 March. The firing of a Russian tank against the power plant set fire to a building which took a long time to extinguish, because the Ukrainian firefighters could not access the site. No radioactive leak was found, but the storming of a nuclear power plant by armed forces is considered an unprecedented act by the IAEA and could have had the most serious consequences. “We survived a night that could have ended the country’s history,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in the morning.

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In the first days of the offensive, on February 25, the Russian army had already carried out operations in the contaminated area of ​​Chernobyl, north of Kiev, where the damaged former power plant is still under the supervision of nuclear engineers. . Today, in Zaporijjia as in Chernobyl, Ukrainian engineers continue to do their work, but are retained on the site.

An act to scare

“Of the six reactors at the Zaporijjia power plant, one is shut down for maintenance, four have been shut down in recent days. Only one is still active, at around 60%,” says Valérie Faudon, general delegate of the French Nuclear Energy Company (SFEN). She explains that the reactors are protected by a concrete enclosure, but notes that“It is undoubtedly a deliberate act by the Russian army, to scare people, because they know the plant and the location of the various buildings perfectly since they built it”.

→ ANALYSIS. War in Ukraine: what threats to nuclear power plants?

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Ukraine is home to four nuclear power plants, with a total of 15 reactors in operation. There is also the old Chernobyl power station, which had four reactors. Ukraine produces 50% of its electricity from nuclear power and has never given up its power plants, despite the Chernobyl accident, for the sake of preserving its independence. The Zaporizhia power plant was built on the banks of the Dnieper in southern Ukraine from 1979 and started operating in 1985. The last of the six reactors was commissioned in 1995. This plant supplies to it only 20% of the country’s electricity.

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