Western nations demanded Russia withdraw its troops from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, but there has been no indication that Vladimir Putin will comply. The United Nations urged demilitarization.
The largest nuclear power plant in Europe is currently controlled by Russian forces. The territory set to become a key battleground in the fight is the focus of disagreement between Ukraine and Russia, both of whom worry that shelling the facility may result in nuclear devastation.
Kyiv has declared it is preparing to launch a counteroffensive to recapture Zaporizhzhia and neighboring Kherson provinces. Russia seized this large section of land after its February incursion, which it still controls. Moscow sent officials to assure them they would hold a vote to bring the region into Russia.
The Dangers in Zaporizhia Nuclear Facility
There has been an increasing concern of a nuclear catastrophe resulting from the Russian bombardment of Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant. Experts, on the other hand, agree that the risk of a Chornobyl-like incident is low, although the Zaporizhia factory was shelled last week.
In the wake of reports that strikes targeted nuclear facilities in Ukraine, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described any attack on such installations as suicidal. An employee at a factory that produces radiological detectors was reportedly wounded when a Russian missile struck the facility.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was only elected last month, immediately requested Western countries to impose new sanctions on Russia, echoing prior warnings of an imminent disaster akin to the Chornobyl disaster of April 1986.
Experts maintain that the presence of 500 Russian troops and 50 pieces of heavy equipment, including tanks, in Zaporizhia does not warrant European-level warnings of a catastrophe.
According to European Nuclear Association president Leon Sezel, the bombing dangers are limited because the reactors are protected by up to 10 meters of concrete. He said that only targeted aerial bombardments of the plant might penetrate the reactor walls. Any radioactive material released would only travel 10-20 kilometers (6 – 12 Miles) away. Destroying the fuel storage sites would have a limited effect.
According to James Acton, co-director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Nuclear Policy Program, the real risk of bombing is that the weak cooling systems might fail, causing a Fukushima-style meltdown rather than a Chornobyl-style one.
United Nations Met to Discuss the Military Operation
John Erath, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, says that Russia is using the threat of the first use of nuclear weapons to raise the stakes and emphasize the importance of continuing the military operation.
According to an Institute for the Study of War report published last week, Western fears of a nuclear catastrophe may be exploited to undermine Western support for Ukraine. According to Erath, the objective is to build “popular sympathy” around the factory.
The Zaporizhia power plant became the focus of the war after Kyiv claimed Russia had once again bombed the plant, damaging its radiation sensors. A factory located in territory controlled by Russia was also bombed.
The United Nations Security Council met yesterday to discuss the situation. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres implored both sides to cease hostilities near the facility.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s United Nations ambassador, said the world was being pushed to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe like the 1986 Chornobyl disaster in then-Soviet Ukraine. He suggested that IAEA officials might visit the site as early as this month.
President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Russia relinquish control of the nuclear plant to Ukraine. France echoed Zelensky’s demand and agreed that Russia’s occupation of the site endangered the world.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Reuters: Ukraine, Russia trade blame for risk of nuclear disaster at frontline plant; by Natalia Zinets
Financial Review: Ukraine, Russia trade blame for ‘suicidal’ nuclear plant shelling; by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder
Arms Control Center: Experts Explain The Reality Of The Danger From The Zaporizhia Nuclear Plant In Ukraine; by David Sadler