March 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Jack Guy, Laura Smith-Spark, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 4, 2022
116 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
9:42 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Zaporizhzhia spokesperson: Fighting has stopped near power plant and radiation levels are currently normal

From CNN's Masha Angelova, Hira Humayun and Philip Wang

Fighting has stopped near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and background radiation levels are currently normal as a fire continued at the facility, a spokesperson at the plant said on Friday.

Spokesperson Andrii Tuz said the plant has not sustained any critical damage, although only one power generation unit out of six is operational.

In an earlier Facebook post, Tuz said at least one power generating unit at the nuclear plant was struck in the fighting. "A lot of technical equipment was hit," he told CNN.

Firefighters met with guns: Earlier Friday, Ukrainian officials said firefighters were unable to access the nuclear plant. Tuz said when firefighters initially arrived, they were met with guns and turned around. 

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the biggest in Europe according to the plant's website. It supports one fifth of total electric power generated in Ukraine.

The nuclear plant has six units in total, with the first one connected to the power grid in 1984, and the sixth one connected in 1995.

9:35 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

American Nuclear Society urges forces to "refrain from military actions near nuclear facilities"

Leaders of the American Nuclear Society have urged all armed forces in Ukraine to "refrain from military actions near nuclear facilities," saying staff at nuclear power plants must be able to do their jobs without interruption or "the fear of being killed or injured."

"We also urge the securing of off-site power supplies for every nuclear facility, uninterrupted transportation to and from sites for plant workers and supply chains; and unfettered communications with regulators and inspectors," said the organization's president, Steven Nesbit, and CEO Craig Piercy in the statement.

They urged an end to the war to "prevent further loss of life and prevent any risk to Ukraine's nuclear facilities.”

9:37 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Nuclear experts: Disaster depends on where the fire is taking place

As a fire reported by Ukrainian officials continues at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, nuclear experts answered some of the most urgent questions:

Are there systems in the plant that can automatically fight the fire? Yes, but they don't fight all fires, said nuclear policy expert and Harvard professor Graham Allison. And not all fires at a power plant can have "catastrophic consequences." It depends on where the fire is — the biggest concern is if the blaze reaches a reactor's cooling pits, which could cause a meltdown of the reactor.

What could happen if a reactor melts down? If a fire, missile strike or other type of attack disrupts the nuclear reactor's cooling structure, it won't be able to cool itself — causing the fuel inside to overheat and melt down, releasing large amounts of radioactivity, said James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The most recent and severe examples include the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Soviet Ukraine.

How likely is this? It's hard to say because there's still much we don't know, several experts agreed — most importantly, where the fire is located, whether it's even near the reactors or in a different part of the nuclear power complex, whether all the reactors are working — all things that could influence the severity of a disaster, if one occurs.

Why is the power plant coming under attack? Russian troops appear to be trying to seal off a nearby river and encircle Ukrainian forces, a classic maneuver, said retired US Army Gen. Wesley Clark — and the power plant is "right in the way." The plant is also a "key strategic asset," providing much of Ukraine's power, he added: "Take that offline, the grid is at least temporarily destabilized. You're cutting the ability of Ukrainians to be able to handle communications to a lot of other things."

9:18 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Where is the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant?

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on fire following an attack by the Russian military, according to Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the nearby city of Enerhodar.

The plant is located in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine, some 70 miles (112 kilometers) from the city of Zaporizhzhia.

Zaporizhzhia is located about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of the city of Donetsk within one of the two pro-Moscow territories recognized as an independent state last month by Russia.

The plant is the largest of its kind in Ukraine and contains six of the country's 15 nuclear energy reactors, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

9:06 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Ukraine reports "no change in radiation levels" at Zaporizhzhia

Ukraine's nuclear regulator told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) there is "no change reported in radiation levels at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant site," the IAEA tweeted on Friday.

Ukrainian officials said early Friday a fire had broken out at the nuclear plant as Russian forces attacked "from all sides," with firefighters unable to reach the site.

9:07 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Nuclear weapons expert: We don't know enough, but biggest concern is the fire disrupting reactor cooling

Though reports of a fire at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are alarming, there's still a lot we don't know, nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis said Friday.

So far, radiation monitoring conditions — which were updated just a few minutes ago — look "normal," according to Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

There are radiation detectors "all over the place," that would be able to pick up on any spikes in radiation, he said. "Reactors are big, sealed and concrete structures. They should not catch on fire. We don’t know what caused the fire."

Biggest fear: If a potential fire breaches the containment structure of the reactor, that's when it could get dangerous, Lewis said.

But there should be workers at the site 24/7, who could stop the reactor before the fire reached it, he added.

"The biggest fear would be if the containment zone would be damaged, let’s say, by a missile," he said.

James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the biggest concern was if the fire disrupted the reactors' cooling systems. If they can't cool themselves, the fuel inside could overheat and melt down.

"I’m sure the reactor has been shut off, but the fuel inside is still radioactive and still requires cooling. You have to keep the reactor cool for as long as the fuel is in. The reactor has to be kept continuously cool," he said.

If the cooling stopped, a meltdown could range from taking place in a few hours or days, depending on how radioactive the reactor is.

8:49 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Biden just spoke to Zelensky

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

US President Joe Biden has just spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as the White House continues to monitor the reported fire at the Zaporizhzia nuclear power plant.

8:43 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

Before fire started, Ukraine warned IAEA that Russian troops were heading to nuclear plant

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, has spoken with Ukraine's Prime Minister and the country's nuclear regulator about the reported fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the IAEA said on Twitter early Friday.

Grossi "appeals for halt of use of force and warns of severe danger if reactors hit," the tweet added.

IAEA's warning: Earlier on Friday — before the fire broke out — the IAEA released a statement warning that Russian troops were approaching the area and any fighting near the plant could be disastrous.

Ukraine told the IAEA "a large number of Russian tanks and infantry 'broke through the block-post' to the town of Enerhodar, a few kilometres from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP)," the IAEA said in a statement.

It added that Ukraine's regulatory authority had sent them an "urgent letter," warning that Russian troops were moving directly toward the nuclear plant and the situation was "critical."

In the statement, Grossi had "appealed for an immediate halt to the use of force at Enerhodar and called on the military forces operating there to refrain from violence near the nuclear power plant."
8:29 p.m. ET, March 3, 2022

International Atomic Energy Agency is in contact with Ukrainian authorities over nuclear plant fire

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a tweet it is "aware of reports of shelling at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant," and that it was in contact with Ukrainian authorities about the situation.

Some context: Earlier, the mayor of a nearby town said the nuclear plant was on fire amid intense fighting in the area, with firefighters unable to reach the site. Ukraine's foreign minister said Russian troops were "firing from all sides" at the plant.