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Russia’s seizure of Ukraine nuclear plant adds to fears about radiation safety -Breaking

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© Reuters. A surveillance camera video shows a flare landing on the Zaporizhia nuclear plant in Enerhodar Oblast, Ukraine. This is screengrab taken from a YouTube or social media clip. Zaporizhzhya NPP via YouTube/via

Mari Saito and Jumin Park

TOKYO/SEOUL – Fears about a lack of radiation data access and the possibility of a nuclear accident have been raised by Russia’s seizure a Ukrainian nuclear plant, atomic experts stated. However, they stress that there were no immediate radiological dangers.

After attacking the Zaporizhzhia Plant, Europe’s biggest, in the wee hours of Friday morning, Russian forces captured it and set a nearby five-storey training center on fire.

Russia claimed that the Ukrainian saboteurs were responsible for the attack at the plant.

International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA), stated in a tweet that Ukrainian authorities informed them that they had received assurances from the agency about the fact that “essential” equipment had not been damaged by the fire.

Park Jong-woon is a Professor at Dongguk University’s energy and electric engineering division. He said that he didn’t believe there was an immediate radiological danger from the seizure of the plant, but warned that Russia might disrupt the public access to radiation data, creating confusion.

Park said that nuclear reactors can “make people think, scare them off, and cause fear.” He worked for state-run power companies between 1996 and 2009.

While the Zaporizhzhia fire was put out, Edwin Lyman from the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington D.C. said there had been “a very real concern” about the risk of catastrophe.

He stated that the potential for a large fire (although it doesn’t seem to be) could render the plant’s electrical systems unusable and cause an event much like Fukushima, if cooling isn’t restored on time.

In general, experts voiced concerns about having access to the real-time information necessary for monitoring the radiation levels on the ground.

Lyman reported that as of Friday afternoon the Zaporizhzhia website was not accessible immediately.

Last week, Chernobyl was taken over by Russian forces. It is now the site of the most severe nuclear catastrophe in history. Monitoring radiation levels at the plant has proved more difficult. Kenji Nanba heads Fukushima University’s Institute of Environmental Radioactivity. He has also been part of a joint research effort with Ukrainian scientists.

According to him, an official Ukrainian site that provides hourly radiation measurement data from Chernobyl’s exclusion zone was down for several days. Another website had lost the majority of its real time readings.

Nanba noted that the Chernobyl accident is now stable, and the reactor’s containment is large. But it was crucial that researchers like him continue to keep track of radiation data to verify there have been no unexpected changes.

Chernobyl was overtaken by Russian forces last Wednesday. Elevated radiation levels were detected near the site. Experts believe that these were due to military activity, which irradiated earth and dirt into the atmosphere.

After a failed safety test, Chernobyl’s fourth reactor burst in April 1986. This caused radiation to envelop much of Europe. There are many estimates of the number of cancer-related deaths and direct deaths caused by this disaster. They range from as low as 2,000 to up to nearly 93,000 worldwide.

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