Then, on Friday, explosions rocked the Zaporozhye nuclear power complex, the largest of its kind in Europe, raising fears of a potential catastrophe once again.
Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of shelling the plant, which was seized by Russian troops in early March, along with the city of Energodar, where the complex is located.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Moscow for the attack, calling the strikes a “brazen crime” and a “terrorist act.”
“Today, the occupiers have created another extremely risky situation for everyone in Europe,” he said in his Friday night address.
The Russian Ministry of Defense denied this claim, saying that the Ukrainians carried out three artillery strikes on the plant and its surroundings. The ministry added that the generating capacity of one block of the station was reduced, and the power supply of the other was turned off.
The Ukrainian state-owned nuclear operator Energoatom has accused Russian forces of attacking the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant and using the complex as a staging area to strike nearby targets, including many targets in the occupied city of Energodar and the nearby Ukrainian-controlled city of Nikopol.
When heavy fighting first broke out near the site in the early days of the war, it raised fears of a nuclear incident and drew condemnation from the international community.
Since then, Ukrainian and Russian employees have been working side by side, and communication with the outside world has been intermittent.
Energoatom said on Friday that Russian shelling hit the nuclear complex and its surroundings and damaged a water intake facility, cutting off electricity and water in much of Energodar.
“Three hits were recorded directly at the site of the station,” the Ukrainian agency said, claiming that one happened “near one of the power units where the nuclear reactor is located.”
CNN was unable to verify claims of damage to the plant, which covers a large area. Most of the recent Russian fires in the area originated near the plant, and it is not clear if parts of the nuclear plant were accidentally hit.
On Saturday, Energoatom said the station was operational and Ukrainian personnel at the station continued to work to ensure radiation safety.
The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the incident.
Zaporozhye plant is out of control
The exact danger posed by the explosions at and around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant remains unclear.
“All the principles of nuclear safety have been violated,” he said, urging Russia and Ukraine to allow experts to visit the site. “A very serious, extremely serious and dangerous matter is at stake.”
Other officials were more reserved, pointing out that the latest nuclear facilities are designed to withstand terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
Some Western and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia is now using the giant nuclear facility as a fortress to protect its troops and stage attacks because they assume Kyiv will not retaliate and risk a crisis.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Monday accused Moscow of using the plant to cover its forces, and Ukraine warned that shelling the complex could be disastrous.
The United Kingdom stated that the activities at the complex undermined the safety of the station.
The Ukrainian mayor of Energodar, Dmitry Orlov, said in late July that Russian forces used heavy weapons near the nuclear power plant because “they know very well that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will not respond to these attacks, as they could damage the nuclear power plant. factory.”
Joshua Berlinger of CNN, Lauren Kent, Yulia Kesaeva and Piotr Zadorozhny contributed to this report.