Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder is expected to speak on Tuesday as speculation about a possible Russian “dirty bomb” continues.
The event is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET. Check out Ryder’s comments in the player above.
Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator said Tuesday that Russian forces are conducting clandestine work at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, activity that could shed light on Russia’s claims that Ukraine’s military is preparing a “provocation” using a radioactive device.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made an unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine was preparing to launch a so-called dirty bomb. Shoigu laid the charges in calls to his British, French, Turkish and US counterparts over the weekend. Britain, France and the United States flatly dismissed it as “transparently wrong”.
Ukraine also dismissed Moscow’s claim as an attempt to divert attention from the Kremlin’s own alleged plans to detonate a dirty bomb using explosives to scatter radioactive waste to sow terror.
Energoatom, the Ukrainian state-owned company that operates the country’s four nuclear power plants, said Russian forces had been conducting clandestine construction work at the occupied Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine for the past week.
Russian officials controlling the area will not allow access to Ukrainian employees who operate the facility or to UN nuclear energy watchdog monitors that would allow them to see what the Russians are doing, Energoatom said in a statement on Tuesday.
CLOCK: Ukraine warns that Russia is planning a dirty bomb attack
Energoatom said it “assumes” that the Russians are “preparing a terrorist attack using nuclear materials and radioactive waste stored at the facility.” It said there were 174 containers in the facility’s dry spent fuel storage facility, each containing 24 units of spent nuclear fuel.
“The destruction of these containers as a result of an explosion will result in a radiation accident and radiation contamination of several hundred square kilometers (miles) of the adjacent area,” the company said.
It asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to assess what was going on.
The UN Security Council was due to hold closed-door consultations on the dirty bomb allegations later Tuesday, at Russia’s request.
The Kremlin has insisted its warning of an alleged Ukrainian plan to use a dirty bomb should be taken seriously, and has criticized Western nations for shrugging their shoulders.
The rejection of Moscow’s warning was “unacceptable given the seriousness of the threat we discussed,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
During a conference call with reporters, Peskov added, “We reiterate the grave danger posed by Ukrainian plans.”
On Monday, the White House again underlined that the Russian allegations were false.
“It’s just not true. We know that’s not true,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council. “In the past, Russians have occasionally blamed others for things they planned to do.”
Dirty bombs don’t have the devastating destructive power of a nuclear blast, but they could expose large areas to radioactive contamination.