Ukraine war – live updates: Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant could become ‘dirty bomb’, Ukraine warns


Ukraine’s foreign ministry shared a video showing possible scenarios for an attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after Russia and Ukraine suggested the other side was looking to sell the facility.
“For the first time in history, an invading army captured a nuclear power plant,” the ministry tweeted. “Russia controls a Ukrainian facility with six nuclear reactors. Here are three scenarios of how Russia can transform this facility into a dirty bomb — or worse,” it added, sharing a video modelling potential fallout scenarios.
And despite experts with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) not finding evidence of explosives at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, an article from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists urged the West to be prepared for potential fallout.
Such an attack on the plant in Ukraine would be “akin to Chernobyl”, an expert warned after both Russia and Ukraine suggested an attack from the other side is imminent.
In Kyiv, commercial radio stations such as XIT FM routinely discuss potential armageddon, while TikTok influencers demonstrate helpful tricks for stopping radioactive fallout from coming into your home.

Ukraine Issues Dire Warning Amidst Ongoing Conflict

Last month, International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Grossi said even though he didn’t find explosives during an inspection of the ZNPP, Russian mines had been laid there previously.
With some classic bureaucratic understatement, Grossi declared using explosives at the ZNPP was “not in line with safety standards”. The Russians probably re-mined it the minute he left.
Ordinarily, an explosion at the ZNPP would render vast swaths of Ukrainian land uninhabitable for decades, and the fallout would affect countries across Europe and Asia.
However, of the ZNPP’s six reactors, five are in a cold shutdown, and one is believed to be operating at about 20 per cent capacity. Given a “cold state” reduces the meltdown threat, this makes any explosions theoretically less dangerous. But it’s cold comfort.
“Even if it’s supposedly ‘off’, we’re still discussing Europe’s biggest nuclear plant,” a senior Ukrainian official tells me.
“Our nuclear agencies talk to the operators, but nobody knows what would happen. There are variables: weather conditions, amount of radiation, blast size – I mean, who has blown up a nuclear plant safely?”

Live Updates on the Risk to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

When the invasion started, Russia illegally shelled the ZNPP and used it as a shield during heavy fighting. It’s been a while since Putin has hinted at a nuclear end-game, but it’s clear he enjoys games of nuclear chicken.
But how far will a rattled Putin go? He risks alienating his Chinese backers, who have a dim view of nuclear parlour games, so the prospect of “lesser” environmental damage makes the option perversely more attractive.
Somewhat ominously, Ukraine says Russian personnel have begun leaving the facility and the city of Enerhodar.
Equally troubling, Russian officials are accusing Ukraine of sabotaging the ZNPP, precisely the projection they used before destroying the Kakhovka Dam last month.
Like with the Kakhovka Dam, the destruction of which threatens the nuclear plant’s safety by reducing available cooling water, destroying the ZNPP could permanently hinder Ukraine’s military advance.
“A major radiation outbreak could slow or even stop Ukrainian forces, particularly on their route to Crimea through the south-east. Russian propaganda is preparing the ground for this,” says Iuliia Mendel, a former press secretary to President Zelensky and author of the war chronicle The Fight of Our Lives.
“It gives Putin the benefit of a battlefield nuclear attack, but he can hide behind false accusations and disinformation. Meanwhile, official investigations would take years. It is diabolical,” Mendel tells me.
Nuclear danger aside, Ukrainians in bunkers, boardrooms and bars worry their much-vaunted counteroffensive is behind schedule.

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant’s ‘Dirty Bomb’ Warning Grips Ukraine

“I’m just so tired. The soldiers too. We need success soon,” a close friend tells me.
Up against 180,000 Russian troops deployed behind a labyrinth of concrete, trenches and mines, progress is grinding and hard-earned. Ukrainians concede the Russians have improved, using cheap drones and helicopter fire effectively.
However, there’s evidence Ukraine’s python squeeze is starting to hurt Russia, which is slowly losing ground and quickly losing forces. In this light, Russia’s contemplation of the unthinkable at Zaporizhzhia looks like desperation rather than intimidation.
Ukrainian government sources say Russia is losing an extraordinary eight soldiers to every one Ukrainian. According to independent monitor Oryx, Ukraine destroyed double the tanks Russia did last month. Given Russia should be inflicting casualties of at least three-to-one on Ukraine’s attackers, this represents unsustainable attrition for Putin’s forces.
In Bakhmut, satellite imagery shows Russia drawing troops from other frontline areas to reinforce the strategically unimportant city it gained after a bloody 10-month battle. Desperate to prove Russia can maintain positions acquired by the discredited Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group, Putin’s political needs are once again creating poor battlefield decisions.

Having made gains on Bakhmut’s flanks, Ukrainian leaders are privately confident of encircling the 50,000 Russian troops stationed around the city in what would be a stunning defeat.
Meanwhile, further south in Vuhledar, Russians are accused of using illegal cluster munitions to stop Ukraine’s advance, with soldiers reporting the smell of “burning bodies”.
After weeks of probing attacks, Ukraine is gearing up for a significant offensive ahead of the July 11 NATO summit. Tokmak, on the road to southern Melitopol, remains the target, but every metre of liberated territory is highly prized.
“We’ve moved a lot of equipment recently. Everyone has left their bases, said their goodbyes,” a soldier close to the frontline tells me. “They’re feeling the pain. Hopefully, they will pop somewhere soon.

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Olivia Wilson

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