Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities have started distributing iodine tablets to nearby residents Europe’s largest nuclear power Friday, amid fears that fighting around the compound could trigger a radiation leak or an even bigger disaster.
The move took place a day after the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was temporarily disconnected from the national power grid for the first time in its 40-year history, raising fears of a nuclear disaster in a country still haunted by the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl.
The pills were being distributed to people living within a 50-kilometer (30-mile) radius of the Enerhodar plant, Volodymyr Marchuk, a spokesman for the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, told NBC News.
Recipients were told not to take them as a preventive measure, he said, adding that they were “distributed in the event of a future radiation leak, at which time the government would ask people to take the tablets”.
He did not specify how many tablets were being distributed and who received them, but in a separate post on his Telegram channel, Enerhodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov said 25,000 tablets had been delivered to the southern city since then. the regional reserve.
He did not say whether they would be distributed, but he stressed that radiation levels in and around the factory were normal.
Earlier on Friday, the country’s national nuclear company, Energoatom, said the plant was safely powered by a repaired line from the power grid, a day after being disconnected from the national power grid. There were no problems with the plant’s machinery or safety systems, he said.
It was later announced that the plant had been reconnected to the Ukrainian power grid and was producing enough electricity to meet the country’s needs.
The factory has been occupied by Russian forces and run by Ukrainian workers since the early days of the 6-month war, and both sides have repeatedly accused each other of bombing the site.
What exactly went wrong on Thursday was unclear, but Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Russian shelling for the late evening damage video address Thursday. He said the disaster was only averted because the plant’s safety systems started with emergency power.
“The world needs to understand what a threat this is: if the diesel generators hadn’t turned on, if the automation and our staff hadn’t responded after the blackout, we would now be forced to overcome the consequences of the radiological accident,” he added. he said.
“Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans on the verge of a radioactive disaster,” Zelenskyy added.
However, Russian officials based in the surrounding Zaporizhzhia region have sought to downplay the seriousness of the situation. “There was just an emergency situation” which was handled by the plant’s security systems, Alexander Volga, a Russian official based in the nearby town of Enerhodar, told state news agency Tass on Friday.
NBC News has not verified either party’s claims.
As accusations swirled about the factory, the Belarusian authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenkosaid on Friday that the country’s warplanes had been modified to carry nuclear weapons under an agreement with the Russian ally.
Lukashenko said the upgrade followed his June meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putinwho offered to return Belarusian nuclear-capable fighter jets to Russian factories and help train pilots.
“Do you think that was all just talk?” Lukashenko told reporters on Friday. “Everything has been done.”
Yulia Talmazan and Associated Press contributed.