On Tuesday, the head of Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom warned that Ukraine and Europe could face another Fukishima if the power supply to the massive Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were cut off again.
Speaking to CNN on Tuesday in Kyiv, Petro Kotin said only one power line to the huge complex was now operational after shelling damaged the lines in recent days.
“If there is no connection to the grid, you cannot supply electricity from outside, then the diesel generators will start. But everything will depend on the reliability of these generators. … It is a dangerous situation , because if it stops, you could have a nuclear material meltdown disaster,” he said, comparing the potential fallout to the Fukishima disaster in Japan.
The reactor at the Fukishima power plant overheated when the emergency power supply failed after the impact of the tsunami in 2011.
Kotin said Energoatom had supplies ready to be sent to the facility for repairs, but they were unable to enter the site.
The Zaporizhzhia plant occupies a large site on the Dnipro River. It has continued to operate at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it in early March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s Energoatom released a statement saying a worker was injured by Russian shelling around the facility on Saturday.
Kotin said the Russian soldiers did not fire from inside the large complex, but near its outskirts. He said Russia continued to occupy Zaporizhizhia with around 500 troops and equipment and that Russian soldiers had moved assets into two special bunkers in recent days.
There are around 1,000 employees still at the site, according to Kotin, who have kept lines of communication open but work under constant stress from the occupying force, including beatings and threats.
“If the situation gets worse, we have to think about our people at the factory. We are planning how, in wartime conditions, we will be able to evacuate personnel.
“A large release of radioactivity could occur from there. There could be a cloud, a radioactive cloud,” he said, adding that the international community must work quickly to demilitarize the area.
Kotin told CNN that the Russians’ ultimate plan was to disconnect the power plant from Ukraine and connect it to the grid to supply occupied Crimea.
Like other Ukrainian officials, he accuses Russia of bombing the compound – he said the range of the impending strikes suggested Russian positions.
Russia blames Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukraine of “holding Europe hostage” by bombing the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Russian news agency TASS.