A Russian missile landed outside a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, renewing fears of catastrophe as yet more nuclear reactors get caught in the crossfire.
A Russian missile exploded within 350 yards of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant in the central part of the country on Monday, according to Ukrainian atomic energy operator Energoatom.
Ukraine’s defense ministry released a video purporting to show the fireball of the explosion, some 19 minutes after midnight, Kyiv time. The ministry and the nuclear authority both accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism” in endangering the plant.
Though none of the plant’s three reactors were affected, the strike once again put the spotlight on nuclear safety in a nation reliant on atomic energy and in the middle of a shooting war.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog said Monday that several transmission lines to the plant had been damaged, but were now back online.
The South Ukraine plant — the nation’s second largest — sits some 200 miles south of Kyiv, and roughly the same distance from the nation’s largest nuclear plant, the Zaporizhzhia plant at Enerhodar.
Both Ukraine and Russia have blamed one another for shells and missiles falling on the Zaporizhzhia plant — a six-reactor behemoth captured by Russian forces in the early days of the war.
A UN team raised concerns earlier this month that the situation at Zaporizhzhia was “not sustainable,” and has called for a permanent presence at the plant.
Loss of power to a nuclear reactor could cause a cooling failure that could potentially put the plant into meltdown — a situation that could easily become as catastrophic as 1986’s Chernobyl disaster in Soviet-controlled Ukraine.
But an errant explosion that missed a reactor or its cooling system could also create a dirty-bomb like explosion if it hit spent nuclear fuel, often stored temporarily at power plants.
Back on its heels after two weeks of successful Ukrainian counterattacks, Russia has resorted to its most common tactic of the war — bombardment.
Enerhodar’s mayor reported yet more shelling in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia plant Monday, and Russian missiles struck a dam late last week in central Ukraine.
On Friday, Putin threatened more.
“Just recently, the Russian armed forces have delivered a couple of impactful strikes,” he said. ”Let’s consider those as warning strikes.”