Rocket and mortar attacks near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine have raised fears of a potential radioactive disaster there for months, prompting world leaders and even Pope Francis to plead for calm.
What to know about Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
“Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last summer. Nearly a year later, the situation remains dire.
Moscow and Kyiv have each blamed the other for the deteriorating conditions at Zaporizhzhia, the largest facility of its kind in Europe. Teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been allowed limited access to the site, but the U.N. watchdog has not been able to secure a deal to keep the nuclear materials there safe.
IAEA head Rafael Grossi has visited the facility during the war, most recently in March, crossing from Ukrainian to Russian-occupied territory. He urged a focus on protecting the facility, even if fighting in the area could not be stopped entirely.
On May 8, Russian authorities said they were preparing to evacuate about 3,100 staff from areas in and around the facility, the head of Ukraine’s nuclear operator said, amid fear that a Ukrainian spring offensive could lead to fighting that would damage the plant. Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of sheltering forces around the facility.
Here’s what to know about the Zaporizhzhia plant and the risks of fighting there: