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The US ambassador to the United Nations has warned that the world averted nuclear catastrophe 'by the grace of God,' as troops move closer to the country's second-largest nuclear power plant.
In a statement given during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council following the news that Russian forces had shelled Europe's largest nuclear power plant, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that troops were 'now 20 miles, and closing, from Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility,' the South Ukraine nuclear power plant in Yuzhnoukrainsk.
International leaders scrambled to condemn Russia on Friday, March 4, after forces in Zaporizhzhia caused a fire in a building on the complex while attempting to take control of Europe's largest nuclear power plant, sparking fears of a potential 'nuclear catastrophie' should any of the plant's reactors or cooling systems sustain damage.
In a speech, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of 'nuclear terrorism,' while UK prime minister Boris Johnson described Russia's actions as 'directly threatening the safety of all of Europe.'
The situation at the plant is now understood to be under control, with no increase in radiation levels observed, however Thomas-Greenfield warned in her speech that the continued advances made by Russian troops towards the South Ukraine nuclear power plant meant the 'imminent danger continues,' and stressed Russia must accept that nuclear facilities 'cannot become part of this conflict.'
'Reliable electricity is vital for the nuclear facility, as are back-up diesel generators and fuel. Safe transit corridors must be maintained,' she urged, per The Independent. 'Russia must halt any further use of force that might put at further risk all 15 operable reactors across Ukraine – or interfere with Ukraine’s ability to maintain the safety and security of its 37 nuclear facilities and their surrounding populations.'
While fears have understandably centered around the safety of the six nuclear reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant, experts have warned that damage to other parts of the plant could also lead to disaster, with Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate saying that if the plant was unable to cool down the nuclear rods inside the reactors it could result in 'significant radioactive releases into the environment.'
Ukraine has a total of four active nuclear power plants, with a number of other sites around the country which store nuclear waste, as well as the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is currently occupied by Russian forces.
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information
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