The Russians open the gates of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe

An administrative building is charred, but those of the reactors appear intact: AFP was able to visit the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant on Sunday, the largest in Ukraine and Europe, whose capture by the Russian army has worried the international community.

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In early March, Moscow forces took control of this facility in the town of Energodar (written Enerhodar in Ukrainian) in southern Ukraine, which is separated from the regional capital Zaporizhia by the waters of the Dnieper and is under Ukrainian control.

The clashes there raised fears in the international community of a nuclear disaster similar to that of Chernobyl in 1986.

During a press trip organized by the Russian army, AFP was able to observe the damage: the facade of a huge administration building that served as a training center for the plant’s personnel was blackened by the flames, and many windows were shattered.


But there was no trace of shelling or bombing on the six cubes, surmounted by a red dome, that contain the reactors, construction of which began in the 1980s.

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency rated the situation in the Zaporijjia power plant as “worrying”, to which its experts have no longer had access since it was taken over by Moscow.

The facility “is functioning normally, in accordance with nuclear, radioactive and environmental standards,” but assures local Major General Valeri Vasiliev, a nuclear and chemical specialist who was dispatched from Moscow to secure the site.

Incidentally, none of the few soldiers standing guard behind stacks of sandbags is wearing overalls, masks, or other radiation protection gear.

“Everything’s OK here! trumpeted the new pro-Moscow mayor of Energodar, Andrei Shevchik, who came to this post in the wake of the Russians.

“We are ready to sell electricity to Europe. Any buyer is welcome. It’s very cheap! ‘ he adds, before boarding a shiny SUV covered in Russian flags.

However, a great deal of uncertainty surrounds the operation of the facility, which continues to be provided by the Ukrainian teams.

AFP has not been able to meet staff at the site and the level of coordination between them and the new owners of the premises is unclear.

Before the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, this power plant had a capacity of 5,700 megawatts, enough to meet more than 20% of the country’s electricity needs.

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