KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces pressed their attack on a crucial energy-producing city by shelling Europe’s largest nuclear plant early Friday, sparking a fire and raising fears that radiation could leak from the damaged power station.
Plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told Ukrainian television that shells were falling directly on the Zaporizhzhia plant in the city of Enerhodar and had set fire to one of the facility’s six reactors. That reactor is under renovation and not operating, but there is nuclear fuel inside, he said.
A government official told The Associated Press that elevated levels of radiation were detected near the plant, which provides about 25% of Ukraine’s power generation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been publicly released.
Tuz said firefighters cannot get near the flames because they are being shot at. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted a plea to the Russians to stop the assault and allow fire teams inside.
“We demand that they stop the heavy weapons fire,” Tuz said in a video statement. “There is a real threat of nuclear danger in the biggest atomic energy station in Europe.”
The attack renewed fears that the invasion could result in damage to one of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors and trigger another emergency like the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, which happened about 110 kilometers (65 miles) north of the capital.