Ukraine’s nuclear risks ramp up
Ukraine’s nuclear power plants face daily risk of deadly disaster while war continues. Safe zones can’t prevent inherent dangers of nuclear reactors leading to catastrophe, group warns
Beyond Nuclear on Thursday put out a press release on the eve of the one year mark since Russia invaded Ukraine, warning of the increased dangers to Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. The press release began:
Ukraine’s nuclear power plants are in immeasurably greater peril today than one year ago when Russia first invaded the country, warns Beyond Nuclear, and creating safe zones around them cannot nullify the technology’s inherent dangers and catastrophic consequences.
All 15 of Ukraine’s reactors at four sites across the country have experienced missile strikes, artillery shelling or drone bombing dangerously close by since the war began. The six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Ukraine and all of Europe, and with more than 2,000 tonnes of deadly radioactive waste onsite, represents the greatest threat. The plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March 4, 2022 and is embroiled most directly in the conflict zone in the southeastern part of the country.
“With the war raging close by, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant represents a nightmarish target that, if catastrophically damaged could cause a nuclear disaster on a scale that would dwarf the impact of Chornboyl, whose effects are still being felt today,” said Linda Pentz Gunter, International Specialist at Beyond Nuclear.
Ukraine’s Chornobyl Unit 4 reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, sending a radioactive plume across the former Soviet Union and beyond, contaminating 40% of the European landmass and setting up a 1,000 square mile Exclusion Zone still uninhabitable today.
“The scenarios that could lead to a nuclear power plant disaster in Ukraine are, in many ways, the same ones that could cause a nuclear power accident on any given day, even under routine operation,” Pentz Gunter said. “These include loss of power, human error or sabotage. The conditions of war just make such an outcome far more likely.”
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