What would happen if Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant explodes?

What would happen if Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant explodes?
FRANCE 24 report: Mounting concerns over Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant safety

Concerns have been rising that Russia might blow up Ukraine's biggest nuclear power station, as their war against the country continues.

The Zaporizhzhia power plant is occupied by Russia, but still run by Ukrainians and is near the frontline of the war.

Now, Kyiv thinks Moscow has called for Russian workers in the plant to leave by 5 July, prompting speculation that they might be about to do something at the station - like blow it up.

Ukrainian military intelligence said in a statement: “Among the first to leave the station were three Rosatom employees, who managed the actions of the Russians. The personnel remaining at the station were instructed to blame Ukraine in case of emergencies.”

This fear has been compounded by the fact that, the Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro river, near the plant, collapsed last month. Both sides have blamed each other for thee attack, and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest Moscow is to blame.

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So is the plant next?

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky told Spanish journalists in Kyiv over the weekend: “There is a serious threat. Russia is technically ready to provoke a local explosion at the plant, which could lead to the release of dangerous substances into the air.

“We are discussing all this with our partners so that everyone understands why Russia is doing this and put pressure on the Russian Federation politically so that they don’t even think about such a thing.”

He also made a video message about the situation:

Other journalists have expressed concerns about the escalating situation:

The West, however, is less concerned. The International Atomic Energy Agency said it observed no mines around the cooling pond during their visit, although it doesn’t have access to all sites at the plant.

But the IAEA’s director general Rafael Mariano Grossi warned: “The nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is extremely fragile.”

Similarly, Biden officials said they were not sure a threat was imminent but they were watching “very very closely”.

Russia has unsurprisingly denied any intention to destroy the plant.

But what would happen if they did? If they did, it could trigger a major nuclear disaster akin to the one we still see in Chernobyl, the UN's nuclear watchdog The International Atomic Energy Agency (the UN’s nuclear watchdog) has warned.

According to experts, it would create a potential exclusion zone which will reach 30,000 square kilometers, which is larger than the area of the Kyiv region or approximately the area of half of Lithuania, which is just over 65,000 square kilometers.

The radioactive contamination would also spread over an area of about 2 million square kilometres, affecting the entire European population, and making nearby regions uninhabitable for hundreds of years.

About a million people are at risk of radiation poisoning, while tens of thousands may die in the first hours from radiation sickness, according to local reports.

So hopefully Russia doesn't blow up the nuclear plant.

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