Sun. May 29th, 2022

A fire broke out at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the early hours of Friday morning following what Ukraine said was a Russian attack, a day after Vladimir Putin declared he would prevail in the invasion “whatever happens”.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian foreign minister, said the Russian army was attacking “all sides” of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the south-east of the country and called for an immediate ceasefire to allow emergency workers to tackle the blaze. The Financial Times could not independently confirm the source of the fire.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Rafael Mariano Grossi, its director-general, had spoken to the Ukrainian prime minister and the country’s nuclear regulator about what he described as a “serious situation” at the plant.

The IAEA subsequently said the Ukrainian regulator had reported no change in radiation levels at the facility. It added that the fire had not affected “essential” equipment and that personnel at the facility were taking “mitigatory actions”.

As reports of the fire emerged, US President Joe Biden discussed the situation with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyaccording to a senior US official.

The official said the latest information obtained by the US also showed “no indications of elevated levels of radiation” but that the White House was monitoring the situation closely.

Biden joined Zelensky in “urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site,” according to a White House account of their call.

The White House added that Biden also spoke with Jill Hruby, the number three official at the US energy department who is responsible for overseeing the National Nuclear Security Administration, and said the US president would continue to receive updates on the situation at the plant.

Jennifer Granholm, US energy secretary, said she had activated her agency’s nuclear incident response team and reiterated that no elevated radiation readings had been detected. “The plant’s reactors are protected by robust containment structures and reactors are being safely shut down,” Granholm said on Twitter.

The fire in the early hours of Friday morning in Ukraine followed a day during which Russia subjected the Ukrainian port of Mariupol and the cities of Chernihiv and Kharkiv to relentless bombardment.

Russia said earlier that its troops had taken control of territory around the plant, located 200km up the Dnipro river from Kherson.

The fire came a day after Putin appeared on state television to say he would “never give up [his] conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people ”, adding that Russia’s troops were fighting“ heroically ”.

Markets reacted negatively to the fire at the plant, with Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 falling by as much as 3 per cent before recovering to trade 2 per cent lower.

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