U.S. stock-index futures tumbled late Thursday after reports that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, in Ukraine, was on fire after Russian shelling, raising fears of an unprecedented nuclear disaster.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures
plunged about 500 points immediately after the first reports, but recovered somewhat and were last down about 200 points, while S&P 500 futures
and Nasdaq-100 futures
dove as well.
According to Associated Press reports, the nuclear power plant in the southern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar was shelled by Russian troops, and the facility was on fire. Plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told the AP that shells were falling directly on the plant and that one reactor — which had been under renovation and not operating, but still contains nuclear fuel — was on fire. He added that firefighters cannot get to the scene because of the fighting.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, tweeted that “If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl!”
According to experts, the risk lies if the plant loses power and is unable to cool the nuclear material — leading to a meltdown, which could be accompanied by an explosion.
Stock futures had been little changed before news of the attack.
During the regular trading day, the stock market failed to hold onto gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
closed down 96.69 points, or 0.3%, to 33,794.66; the S&P 500
fell 23.05 points, or 0.5%, ending at 4,363.49; and the Nasdaq Composite
ended 214.07 points lower, or 1.6%, finishing at 13,537.94.