U.S Activates Nuclear Incident Response amid Russian Attacks on Ukraine Power Plant
Russia shelled Zaphorizhizia - largest nuclear power plant in Europe
The United States government has activated the Nuclear Incident Response Team as Russia launched attacks against Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
After shelling the nuclear facility on Thursday night, Russian troops seized the power plant on Friday morning.
The UN's atomic watchdog revaled that the attacks sparked a fire at the plant but no radioactive material was released.
The attack on the southeastern city of Enerhodar and its Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant unfolded as the invasion entered its second week.
The attacks and seizure of the plant are now drawing fears of a nuclear disaster, triggering immediate condemnation from world leaders.
Three of Ukraine's troops were killed in the blast, according to the Ukrainian state nuclear company.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a building that was not part of the reactor was hit by a Russian "projectile" and two security personnel were also injured.
"All the safety systems of the six reactors at the plant were not affected at all and there has been no release of radioactive material," he said.
He added that the Ukrainians are still in control of operations but the situation remains unstable.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also revealed that the reactors at the facility are being “safely shut down.”
"I just spoke with Ukraine’s energy minister about the situation at the Zaphorizhizia nuclear plant,” Granholm tweeted on Thursday evening.
"Russian military operations near the plant are reckless and must cease.”
I just spoke with Ukraine’s energy minister about the situation at the Zaphorizhizia nuclear plant. Russian military operations near the plant are reckless and must cease. 1/— Secretary Jennifer Granholm (@SecGranholm) March 4, 2022
Granholm announced that the U.S. Department of Energy “has activated its Nuclear Incident Response Team” while monitoring events alongside the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
She added that “the plant’s reactors are protected by robust containment structures and reactors are being safely shut down.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Nuclear Incident Response Team is activated “during disasters involving nuclear weapons, radiological incidents, or acts of nuclear terrorism.”
NIRT has “specialized assets that perform support functions related to nuclear or radiological emergencies, radiation exposure, radiological assistance, and related activities.”
Following a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Democrat Joe Biden joined the Eastern European leader in “urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site,” according to a statement from the White House.
Biden also “spoke this evening with Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Jill Hruby to receive an update on the situation at the plant,” according to the statement.
Biden will continue to be briefed regularly.
On Thursday, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba announced that the “Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP.
"Fire has already broke out.
"If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl!
"Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”
The International Atomic Energy Agency also said on social media that they are “aware of reports of shelling” at Zaporizhzhia and are “in contact with Ukrainian authorities” about the situation.
The attack on the nuclear plant follows unsuccessful talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials.
Although negotiators agreed to create “humanitarian corridors” to aid civilians attempting to leave Ukraine’s cities, Russian President Vladimir Putin “signaled that he is determined to continue the war,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
On Thursday, the Russian military continued its operations against residential areas in the cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv, while Russia carried out airstrikes against the capital city of Kyiv and sent warships toward the port city of Odesa.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a primary topic of Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
"Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways,” Biden proclaimed.
"But he badly miscalculated.
"He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would rollover.
"Instead, he met a wall of strength he never imagined.”