Residents near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are given iodine tablets in the event of a radioactive leak.

The move comes two days after the the factory has been temporarily taken offline because of what officials said was fire damage to a transmission line.

Iodine tablets, which help block radioactive iodine uptake by the thyroid gland during a nuclear accident, were issued in the town of Zaporizhzhia – about 27 miles (45 km) from the plant.

Fighting around the plant has raised concerns about a possible nuclear disaster.

Continuous shelling has been reported in the area and satellite images from Planet Labs have shown fires burning around the complex for the past few days.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned: “Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation close to a radioactive disaster”.

Russian forces captured the plant in southern Ukraine in March and have controlled it ever since, although it is still operated by Ukrainian technicians.

Both sides have repeatedly accused each other of bombing the site.

While the UN’s atomic energy agency has tried to request access to inspect and help secure the plant – with officials saying preparations for the trip are underway – it’s still unclear when that will be. could take place.

Nuclear experts have warned of the risk of damage to spent nuclear fuel pools at the Zaporizhzhia power plant or its reactors.

A satellite image shows smoke rising from the fires at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Wednesday. Photo: Planet Labs PBC/AP

A factory cut off from the electricity grid

In Thursday’s incident, both sides blamed each other for damage to the transmission line that cut the plant off from the power grid.

It was unclear exactly what went wrong, but Mr Zelenskyy said the plant’s emergency diesel generators needed to be activated to provide electricity to keep the complex running.

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Analysis: Six months of conflict

The plant needs energy to run the reactors’ vital cooling systems. Loss of cooling could lead to nuclear meltdown.

On Friday, Ukrenergo, the Ukrainian transmission system operator, announced that two damaged main lines supplying the plant with electricity had resumed operation, ensuring a stable power supply.

The incident heightened fears of a nuclear disaster in a country still haunted by the Chernobyl explosion in 1986.

Read more:
What are the risks of a nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
Russia has put Europe ‘one step away’ from a radioactive disaster at a power plant
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While Ukraine has accused Russia of using the plant as a shield by stockpiling weapons there and launching attacks around it, Moscow accuses Ukraine of recklessly firing on it.

The head of Ukraine’s nuclear power industry told Sky News that factory personnel were tortured by the Russians to force them to stay and operate the facility.

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