How safe are Ukrainian nuclear plants?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warns of a possible "nuclear disaster" in Zaporizhzhia.

by Faruk Imamovic
How safe are Ukrainian nuclear plants?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warns of a possible "nuclear disaster" in Zaporizhzhia. After frequent attacks on that nuclear plant, Zelenski compared the current situation to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The Ukrainian and Russian governments continue to dispute over who shelled the areas around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which have been occupied by Russian troops since March.

For now, it is not possible to independently verify these allegations. In his overnight video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for new Western sanctions against Russia's nuclear industry, as the government in Moscow risks causing a nuclear disaster.

Because of the fire in the Ukrainian nuclear power plant near Zaporizhzhia, and because of the general fear of a nuclear conflict, many people remembered that iodine tablets help with radioactivity. Theoretically, yes. But - you'd better get over it.

“The world must not forget Chernobyl and the fact that Zaporizhia is the largest power plant in Europe. The Chernobyl disaster (in 1986) was a reactor explosion and the Zaporizhia power plant has six reactors,” he said on Monday.

at night in his diary. video address On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described any attack on the nuclear power plant as "suicidal" and demanded that UN inspectors gain access to Zaporizhia. Ukraine demanded the demilitarization of the area around the complex, as well as the admission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - to which Russia agreed.

At the same time, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted the separatist representative Yevgeni Balitsky appointed by Russia, who said on Tuesday (August 9) that due to the Ukrainian counter-offensive, air defense around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant will be strengthened.

What is the current situation in Zaporizhia?

The area of ​​the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been the target of attacks in recent days, according to various sources. Who shot the nuke? That is not entirely clear.

Moscow blames Kyiv for this, and Kyiv blames Moscow. For now, independent verification of these allegations is not possible, among other things, because inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are not allowed access to the territory occupied by Russia.

The critical infrastructure of the Ukrainian nuclear plant is said to be still intact. However, not only the reactors themselves are potentially threatened by the fire, but also the temporary storage of nuclear waste located in the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant area.

Can such nukes withstand military attacks?

"In principle, military attacks are not something that is taken into account when designing nuclear power plants," says Nikolaus Müllner of the University of Vienna. He examines the possible risks to the operation of nuclear power plants and says that they are built to withstand natural disasters, plane crashes, or terrorist attacks.

And he notes that protection against targeted military destruction is practically impossible. This scientist, who is currently investigating possible dangers for Ukrainian nuclear power plants, nevertheless assumes that unintentional attacks with conventional weapons (such as rockets), i.e.

what probably already happened in Zaporizhzhia, have not yet led to fatal damage to the reactor.

What is the situation in other Ukrainian nuclear plants?

Three other nuclear power plants are currently active in Ukraine. For now, they are not directly threatened by armed conflicts.

During March, Russian troops arrived within 100 kilometers of the Mykolaiv nuclear plant in the south of Ukraine, which was the closest position to a nuclear plant. After withdrawing from their previous positions, Russian troops are now about 140 kilometers from Mykolaiv.

Russian rocket fire from Belarusian state territory also potentially threatens the Rivne nuclear plant in northwestern Ukraine. It is located about 65 kilometers from the Belarusian border. From the territory of that neighboring country, Russia's ally, missile attacks on Ukraine have been carried out on several occasions over the past months, writes DW.

Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky