Big threat


Concern about the potential for a radiation leak at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant persisted as Ukrainian authorities said that Russian forces fired on areas just across the river and Russia claimed Ukrainian shelling hit a building where nuclear fuel is stored. Authorities were distributing iodine tablets to residents who live near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in case of radiation exposure, which can cause health problems depending on the amount a person absorbs.

Much of the concern centers on the cooling systems for the plant’s nuclear reactors. The systems require power to run, and the plant was temporarily knocked offline because of what officials said was fire damage to a transmission line. A cooling system failure could cause a nuclear meltdown. The Ukrainian and Russian governments have repeatedly accused the other of shelling the complex and nearby areas, raising fears of a possible catastrophe. Periodic shelling has damaged the power station’s infrastructure, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, Energoatom said.

In the latest conflicting attack reports, the governor of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, Valentyn Reznichenko, said Saturday that Grad missiles and artillery shells hit the cities of Nikopol and Marhanets, each located about 10 kilometers (6 miles) and across the Dnieper River from the plant. But Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukrainian forces had fired on the plant from Marhanets. Over the past day, 17 Ukrainian shells hit the plant, with four striking the roof of a building that stores nuclear fuel, he said. The U.N.’s atomic energy agency has tried to work out an agreement to send a team in to inspect and help secure the plant. Officials said preparations for the visit were underway, but it remained unclear when it might take place.