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Ukraine has released iodine tablets to civilians near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, fearing a radiation leak from the constant shelling.
Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the Zaporizhzhya region, instructed residents within a 30-mile radius on how to use potassium iodide on Ukrainian television.
The pills will be “distributed in the event of a future radiation leak,” the governor said.
About 25,000 tablets have been delivered to the city of Enerhodar from the regional reserve.
Potassium iodide helps block the thyroid’s uptake of radioactive iodine in a nuclear disaster.
One dose should provide 24 hours of protection.
A satellite image taken yesterday shows the view above the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, seized by Russian forces
A Russian soldier guards an area of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, where fears of a radiation leak have been raised
The Zaporizhzhya plant, which has six of Ukraine’s reactors, has been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after Moscow launched its invasion on February 24, and has remained on the front line ever since.
Radiation levels in the region are currently normal, but Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling the factory, threatening a leak.
Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Energoatom said the Kremlin’s forces have been shelling the site again in the past 24 hours and are still assessing the damage.
Some shells even fell near units that store reactor fuel and radioactive waste.
Energoatom: ‘There are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive materials, and the fire risk is high.’
But the Kremlin said Ukrainian shells had hit the roof over “168 Westinghouse nuclear power plants.”
A man walks past a heavily damaged residential building after a recent airstrike on the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk . region
Under the barrage of shelling last week, the facility had already been temporarily knocked offline.
Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said today he was on his way to Zaporizhzhya to assess the site.
“The day has come, the IAEA support and assistance mission to Zaporizhzhya is now underway,” Grossi tweeted, saying the UN nuclear watchdog team would arrive “later this week” at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
In a photo accompanying his tweet, the IAEA chief posed with a team of 13 people in caps and sleeveless jackets bearing the nuclear watchdog’s logo.
Grossi has been asking to visit the site for months, warning of “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster.”
The United Nations has called for an end to all military activities in the vicinity of the complex.
Ukraine initially feared that an IAEA visit would legitimize Russian occupation of the site before eventually supporting the idea of a mission.
Zelensky on Friday urged the watchdog to send a team as soon as possible.
An excavator demolishes destroyed buildings in Mariupol on Saturday as Russian bombardment continues
Between Thursday and Friday, the plant was cut off from Ukraine’s national power grid for the first time in its 40-year history due to “actions by the invaders,” Energoatom said.
Friday afternoon he came back online.
Putin had agreed that a team of independent inspectors could travel to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant via Ukraine, the French presidency said on Aug. 20 after a meeting with Emmanuel Macron.
Ukraine has alleged that Russia is essentially holding the factory hostage, stockpiling weapons there and carrying out attacks from the vicinity, while Moscow accuses Ukraine of reckless firing at the facility. The plant in Zaporizhzhya has six reactors.
Ukraine’s Atomic Energy Agency has painted an ominous picture of the threat by releasing a map predicting where radiation could spread from the Zaporizhzhya plant.
Energoatom said in a statement that in the past 24 hours, Russian forces have attacked the nearby town of Enerhodar and its power plant, injuring 10 people, four of whom worked at the plant.
Attacks were also reported over the weekend, both in Russian-controlled area adjacent to the plant along the left bank of the Dnieper River and along the Ukrainian-controlled right bank, including the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets, each about six miles from the facility.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces have attacked the plant twice in the past day and that grenades have fallen near buildings where reactor fuel and radioactive waste are stored.
“One projectile fell in the area of the sixth power unit and the other five in front of the pumping station of the sixth unit, which cools this reactor,” Konashenkov said, adding that radiation levels were normal. It was not possible to independently verify the allegations.
The IAEA reported on Sunday that radiation levels were normal, that two of the six reactors at the Zaporizhzhya plant were in operation and that, although a full assessment had not yet been made, recent fighting had damaged a water pipe since repairs.