August 12, 2022

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Ukraine | Russia | “The risk is huge and it will get worse”: Why is the unsustainable nuclear situation in Ukraine unsustainable? | the world

I think the situation is still unsustainable, and as time passes, it is even more unsustainable”, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Croci told Efe news agency.

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A UN official rightly warned about the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which fell to Russian forces in early March. He stressed that the IEA had problems in providing data on the condition of the plant due to frequent outages, and that repairs and maintenance work were not carried out.

Grosi also assured that the lack of Russian cooperation would make it impossible to verify Ukraine’s serious accusations regarding nuclear security. Petro Kodin, the head of Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, condemned Moscow last week, accusing it of militarizing the Zaporizhia plant, where heavy weapons, including missiles, are installed.

Russian forces seized the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Photo: Getty)

There are many risks and the risks are increasing as the war rages. Ukraine has several nuclear power plants, including the largest in Europe and Chernobyl”, says El Comercio Roman Ortiz, a Spanish researcher at the Center for International Security at the University of Francisco de Vitoria (Madrid).

Security threats

Unfortunately, there are many risks surrounding nuclear security in Ukraine. The former Soviet republic is a nuclear-armed state. There are four plants with 15 reactors with a capacity of generating 13,835 MW and the same plants provide more than 60% of the electricity generated in the country.

Ortiz sees three types of danger. On the one hand, there is the risk of military operations hitting nuclear reactors, which could lead to a leak of radioactive material. The second problem is related to the cooling of the reactor.

Reactors are usually water cooled and to prevent water from evaporating and potentially releasing radioactive material, a cooling system is required. The danger is that war affects the cooling system”, says the expert.

A third risk is the storage of large amounts of radioactive material that must be contained. “In the case of Zaporizhia we are talking about tons of plutonium. There is obviously a risk if the safety conditions surrounding the material are not metOrtiz adds.

Russian forces captured Zaporizhia in March.  (Photo: Reuters)
Russian forces captured Zaporizhia in March. (Photo: Reuters)

Carlos Umana, a member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and the International Association of Physicians to Prevent Nuclear War, points out that the risk of accidents increases due to the maintenance of plants during times of war. Or due to non-availability of required electricity for these plants.

There is a risk of a nuclear accident either because of it or because of an accident during the intersection. This is especially dangerous in a country with so many nuclear reactors like Ukraine, which has 16 in such a large land area.”, he says in this newspaper.

As for nuclear weapons, he says there is an existential danger, not only to Ukraine, but to the entire world. “Russia is increasing its nuclear threats as time goes on and the conflict drags on. This increases the risk of a nuclear weapon being used, intentionally or accidentally, unleashing a nuclear-armed World War III with global consequences.”, he points out.

Even if the countries of the Southern Hemisphere were not hit by nuclear bombs, the climate effects would be devastating to civilization and the human race. In that sense, it is absurd to be in such a high existential crisis because of political rhetoric“, Collaboration.

“The danger is only going to get worse”

Experts agree that the risks will only get worse under the current scenario. In an ideal scenario, what Russia should do is limit its military activities around nuclear reactors and facilities.

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The problem, Ortiz says, is that Russia is trying to use those reactors as some sort of threat device. On the one hand, to show the extent to which war can have disastrous consequences, on the other hand, what he is trying to do is benefit economically from the control of some of those reactors.

The risk is huge and will only get worse as operations intensify. Russia uses massively inaccurate artillery. The only way to reach the targets is to use artillery in large numbers, which means that the risks of accidentally hitting nuclear power plants are very high.“, he says.

Umana adds that under these circumstances, it is imperative that nuclear reactors are always monitored by trained personnel. He points out that even in the event of a nuclear disaster, there should always be people behind nuclear reactors to limit radiation as much as possible. According to Ukraine, about 500 Russian soldiers are stationed at the site of the Zaporizhia plant and have taken control of it.

In the invasion of Ukraine, when the Russians took over a nuclear reactor, no oversight was allowed. We don’t know what or how many people work or manage nuclear power plants, so it’s a risk because we don’t know if it’s trained personnel or 20-year-old soldiers. Or making disastrous decisions”, he concludes.

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