A REACTOR at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant has been shut down after Ukraine accused Russian troops of shelling the site.
One of two operational reactors at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant complex has been closed as shells also landed in a nearby town.
The facility was seized by Russian troops soon after they invaded and has remained on the front line ever since but fears it could be the scene of a catastrophic nuclear disaster are mounting.
The plant was disconnected from the grid for the first time ever last week after fire damage to overhead power lines, again from Russian shelling.
The Ukrainian operator of the site, Energoatom, said one of the two operational reactors have been shut down.
"As a result of another mortar shelling by Russian forces at the site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the emergency protection was activated and the operational fifth power unit was shut down," it said.
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Energoatom added that the other unit continues provide energy for Ukraine and is also supplying electricity for the power plant's own needs.
Meanwhile, footage from nearby town of Enerhodar shows several explosions going off with the local mayor saying several civilians had been injured.
Russia said in 60 Ukrainian troops crossed the Dnipro river, which divides territory held by the two sides, in boats at 6am in what it said was a "provocation" aimed at disrupting the planned IAEA visit.
Inspectors from the United Nations’ IAEA nuclear watchdog are due to visit the plant in a bid to “prevent a nuclear accident” its boss Rafael Grossi said.
A local Ukrainian mayor earlier said the team was unable to reach the plant after departing the city of Zaporizhzhia this morning due to Russian shelling along the pre-planned route.
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The IAEA has now confirmed its delegation has been delayed for three hours on the Ukrainian-held side of the frontline.
Fears of a radiation leak have been growing amid warning and Energoatom said at the fire risk was also rising.
The plant requires power to run the reactors' vital cooling systems – and a loss of cooling could lead to a nuclear meltdown.
Many of the radiation fears centre on a possible loss of the cooling system – and the risk that an attack on the cooling ponds where spent fuel rods are kept could scatter radioactive material.
As fears of a radiation disaster loom, iodine tablets were issued in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia – about 27 miles from the site.
The pills help block the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland in the case of a nuclear disaster.
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Ukraine knows better than any other country on Earth the risks associated with nuclear power.
Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the north of the country exploded and went into meltdown while under Soviet control back in 1986.
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