Daily shelling and the threat of blowing up the Zaporizhzhya NPP: are Nikopol residents going to leave their homes

Daily shelling and the threat of blowing up the Zaporizhzhya NPP: are Nikopol residents going to leave their homes
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Daily shelling and the threat of blowing up the Zaporizhzhya NPP: are Nikopol residents going to leave their homes Regions at war 01 Jul 2023 at 12:46

Residents of Nikopol, situated in the right-bank part of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, endure daily enemy shelling. Just about 10 kilometers from the city stands the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has been mined by Russian occupiers.

Journalists have been investigating how people are living there and whether they plan to leave their homes. The residents of Nikopol, located right across from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, are preparing for the worst but are not in a hurry to abandon their city. The local authorities have not observed a mass exodus.

Besides the threat from the Russians at the nuclear plant, people face daily shelling. This night, the occupiers shelled again. Due to the explosion at the Kakhovske Hydroelectric Power Plant, Nikopol has been left without centralized water supply. Efforts are underway to restore it, but water has been made available in less than half of the city.

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is less than ten kilometers away, straight across. The plant is visible from virtually every part of the city now, across the receded Kakhovske Reservoir. The locals are aware of the danger, but they don't want to leave their hometown. "Where would I go, child? I'm already nearly 80! I won't go anywhere. I've already lived my life," says a local resident.

The authorities have prepared and practiced evacuation plans in case of an accident at the nuclear plant. They've informed residents about the evacuation gathering points. Medical professionals are identifying elderly and less mobile people who can't reach the gathering points on their own. There are 951 people on the list, but most of them have refused evacuation. "Transport will be available to take them because these people won't be able to reach buses or trains. You know what they say? They say, 'We'll die at home.' I tell them that they shouldn't die; they should wait for victory," says a doctor from Nikopol.

The primary healthcare center is not overwhelmed with people. They are seeking traditional medical consultations. Pharmacies are not crowded either. Potassium iodide, along with instructions for use, was distributed to all residents in the city free of charge last year, shortly after the nuclear power plant's occupation. They've purchased even more than the city's population. Currently, people are suffering more due to the absence of centralized water supply, according to the medics. So they are stockpiling supplies for their work. When they go on calls to elderly patients, they bring them bottled water.

The water supply, which disappeared from Nikopol three weeks ago after the explosion at the Kakhovske Hydroelectric Power Plant, is slowly being restored. Now more than two-thirds of the population has access to water, but the city's authorities are not committing to a timeline for everyone. This is primarily due to the constant shelling of the city. "The shelling happens almost every day. There are even multiple occurrences in a single day. There are no forecasts. We are taking all necessary steps to restore sustainable water supply," says the mayor of Nikopol, Oleksandr Sayuk.

Despite the challenges and threats, repairs continue on the streets of Nikopol. Greenery workers are mowing the grass near buildings with broken windows.

Nikopol has been under shelling for twelve months in a row. Over four thousand buildings have been damaged. Twenty city residents have died, and almost a hundred have been injured. But the residents are hopeful that the city will endure and they gaze anxiously across at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on the opposite bank. It's important to note that President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and the Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, have repeatedly stated that the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is mined by Russians, and the enemy could carry out an attack on it at any moment, leading to a radiation release.

Experts from NAEK Energoatom have developed the most predictable scenario of events at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, where an accident caused by an attack could result in a radiation release that affects four regions in Ukraine. According to the most probable scenario, four regions would be affected: Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, and Mykolaiv. In case of a nuclear power plant accident, government institutions and the local population should act according to specific protocols.


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