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Video analysis reveals Russian attack on Ukrainian nuclear plant veered near disaster.

NPR, March 11, 2022: Last week’s assault by Russian forces on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant was far more dangerous than initial assessments suggested, according to an analysis by NPR of video and photographs of the attack and its aftermath.

A thorough review of a four-hour, 21-minute security camera video of the attack reveals that Russian forces repeatedly fired heavy weapons in the direction of the plant’s massive reactor buildings, which housed dangerous nuclear fuel. Photos show that an administrative building directly in front of the reactor complex was shredded by Russian fire. And a video from inside the plant shows damage and a possible Russian shell that landed less than 250 feet from the Unit 2 reactor building.

The security camera footage also shows Russian troops haphazardly firing rocket-propelled grenades into the main administrative building at the plant and turning away Ukrainian firefighters even as a fire raged out of control in a nearby training building.

The evidence stands in stark contrast to early comments by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which while acknowledging the seriousness of the assault, emphasized that the action took place away from the reactors. In a news conference immediately after the attack, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi made reference to only a single projectile hitting a training building adjacent to the reactor complex.

“All the safety systems of the six reactors at the plant were not affected at all,” Grossi told reporters at the March 4 briefing.

In fact, the training building took multiple strikes, and it was hardly the only part of the site to take fire from Russian forces. The security footage supports claims by Ukraine’s nuclear regulator of damage at three other locations: the Unit 1 reactor building, the transformer at the Unit 6 reactor and the spent fuel pad, which is used to store nuclear waste. It also shows ordnance striking a high-voltage line outside the plant. The IAEA says two such lines were damaged in the attack.

“This video is very disturbing,” says Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. While the types of reactors used at the plant are far safer than the one that exploded

n Chernobyl in 1986, the Russian attack could have triggered a meltdown similar to the kind that struck Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, he warns.”It’s completely insane to subject a nuclear plant to this kind of an assault,” Lyman says.

In a news conference on Thursday, Grossi said that he had met with Ukrainian and Russian officials but failed to reach an agreement to avoid future attacks on Ukraine’s other nuclear plants. “I’m aiming at having something relatively soon,” he told reporters in Vienna.

The assault

On March 3, the nuclear plant was preparing for a fight. A news release posted to its website just hours before the assault described the facility as operating normally, with its assigned Ukrainian military unit ready for combat.

The Russian decision to move on the plant was clearly premeditated, according to Leone Hadavi, an open-source analyst with the Centre for Information Resilience, who helped NPR review the video.”It was planned,” Hadavi says, and it involved around 10 armored vehicles as well as two tanks. That is far more firepower than would have been carried by, say, a reconnaissance mission that might have stumbled across the plant by chance.

Just before 11:30 p.m. local time, someone began livestreaming the plant’s security footage on its YouTube channel. The livestream rolled on as Russian forces began a slow and methodical advance on the plant. The column of armored vehicles, led by the tanks, used spotlights to cautiously approach the plant from the southeast along the main service road to the facility.

Around an hour and 20 minutes later, one of the two tanks that led the column was struck by a missile from Ukrainian forces and was disabled.

That marked the beginning of a fierce firefight that lasted for roughly two hours at the plant. Immediately after the tank was disabled, Russian forces returning fire appeared to hit a transmission line connected to the plant’s main electrical substation. The IAEA says two of four high-voltage lines were damaged in the attack. Lyman says that these lines are essential to safe operations at the plant……..

Based on photos and damage assessments by Ukrainian officials and the IAEA, Lyman says that the damage appears to have been to some of the less hardened points within the nuclear plant. Unlike office buildings and elevated walkways, the reactors themselves and their spent fuel are sealed within a thick steel containment vessel that would withstand a great deal of damage.

But he also says that the host of systems required to keep the reactors safe are not hardened against attack. Cooling systems rely on exterior pipework; backup generators are kept in relatively ordinary buildings; vital electrical yards are out in the open; and the plant’s control rooms are not designed to operate in a war zone……………. https://www.npr.org/2022/03/11/1085427380/ukraine-nuclear-power-plant-zaporizhzhia

March 12, 2022 - Posted by | incidents, Ukraine, weapons and war

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