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Ukraine issues iodine pills as Russia shells Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant again

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Tablets are being distributed to civilians near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant after renewed shelling…

ukraine issues iodine pills as russia shells zaporizhzhya nuclear plant again
ukraine issues iodine pills as russia shells zaporizhzhya nuclear plant again
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Iodine tablets are being distributed to civilians near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine after renewed shelling raised fears of a radiation leak.

Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of Zaporizhzhya region, told Ukrainian television that residents were being told how to use potassium iodide.

The pills were being given to people living within a 50km radius of the plant in Enerhodar, a spokesman for the Zaporizhzhya regional military administration told NBC News.

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The pills were “being distributed in case of any future radiation leak”, he said, at which time the government would instruct people to take them.

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About 25,000 tablets were delivered to Enerhodar from the regional reserve, the town’s mayor said.

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In the event of a nuclear accident taking a dose of potassium iodide helps to block the absorption of radioactive iodine, or iodine-131, by the thyroid gland when people inhale it. A dose usually gives protection for 24 hours.

Radiation levels are normal in the area of the plant but Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling in its vicinity, risking a serious accident.

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Widow Liudmyla Shyshkina, 74, and her son Pavlo Shyshkin, 46, stand at their apartment house, which was destroyed after Russian bombardment of Nikopol.

Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

Widow Liudmyla Shyshkina, 74, and her son Pavlo Shyshkin, 46, stand at their apartment house, which was destroyed after Russian bombardment of Nikopol.

Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear company, said that Russian troops had shelled the grounds again in the past 24 hours and that the damage was being assessed.

It said on Saturday (local time) that the plant’s infrastructure had been damaged.

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“There are risks of hydrogen leakage and sputtering of radioactive substances, and the fire hazard is high,” it said.

Russia’s defence ministry claimed, for its part, that Ukrainian forces had shelled the complex twice in 24 hours, with some shells falling near units storing reactor fuel and radioactive waste.

On Saturday the ministry said four Ukrainian shells had struck the roof of a building storing “168 assemblies of nuclear fuel of the Westinghouse firm” and that a further ten shells detonated 30m from a storage unit for spent nuclear fuel.

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Ukraine signed a deal in 2019 with the US nuclear power company Westinghouse to supply fuel to all its nuclear power stations, reducing reliance on Russian uranium.

Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate warned that in the event of an accident at the plant wind would push a radioactive plume to the southeast, towards Russia.

An apartment building destroyed after Russian shelling in Nikopol.

Kostiantyn Liberov/AP

An apartment building destroyed after Russian shelling in Nikopol.

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Russian forces seized the nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, soon after invading Ukraine. It is on the left bank of the Dnipro river, about 56 kilometres southwest of the city of Zaporizhzhya.

Ukraine holds the right bank of the Dnipro, opposite the plant, including the cities of Nikopol and Marhanets. Both were shelled overnight, with areas of Nikopol left without electricity and at least a dozen homes damaged by rocket fire in Marhanets. Zaporizhzhya was also hit, wounding two people.

A team from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is seeking to visit the plant this week to assess the situation. Negotiations are continuing and it is unclear when the visit might take place.

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The plant is held by Russian troops but being run by Ukrainian workers under Russian supervision. Russian troops have allegedly deployed artillery and missile systems at the site.

Experts say that large explosions could release radioactive substances, and a sustained power failure would threaten the water system needed to cool the reactors and spent fuel.

– The EU will suspend a fast-track visa agreement with Russia to head off a row with Finland, the Baltic States and other countries in eastern Europe who are demanding a ban on Russian tourists. A proposal to freeze a 2007 visa facilitation deal with Russia will force travellers to provide more documents, leading to delays and an increase in the cost of an entry permit to €80, from €35.

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THE TIMES, LONDON

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