Russia Attacks, Seizes Control of Europe's Largest Nuclear Power Plant

Ukraine nuclear power plant
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.Getty

The U.S. calls the nuclear power plant attack in Ukraine "reckless," as officials say a fire that broke out at the site has been extinguished.

Russian forces attacked and seized Europe's biggest nuclear power plant on Friday in a "reckless" assault that sparked international condemnation and fears of a nuclear disaster.

The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine called the Russian assault on the Zaporizhzhia facility a "war crime." Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said it proved how reckless Russian President Vladimir Putin has been in his invasion of the former Soviet territory

"It just raises the level of potential catastrophe to a level that nobody wants to see," Kirby told CNN.

Ukrainian officials said a fire at the site had been extinguished, and there appeared to be no radiation leaks.

Energoatom, Ukraine's state nuclear plant operator, said three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two others wounded in the attack. Managers at the plant were working at gunpoint after Russian soldiers took over the facility, the operator said.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting Friday following the assault.

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Twitter that Ukraine officials reported that safety systems for the plant's six reactors were not impacted and there was no release of radioactive material. 

Energoatom reported the situation on the ground as "extremely tense and challenging," according to the IAEA. 

"No country besides Russia has ever fired upon an atomic power plant's reactors. The first time, the first time in history," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Facebook.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the occupation of Zaporizhzhia is "a situation that is very difficult to sustain, very fragile" because Russian soldiers are in charge.

"This is unprecedented," Mariano said. "Completely uncharted waters."

For more coverage of the Ukraine crisis, please visit CBS News.

Related Stories