Nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities are objects of peaceful use of nuclear energy, not intended for combat operations and should not be subject to military attack. With its actions related to the shelling and seizure of nuclear facilities at the Chornobyl and Zaporizhzhia NPPs, as well as the bombing of the “Neutron Source” research nuclear facility in Kharkiv, the Russian Federation violated all world principles of nuclear safety.
During the hostilities on March 4, the city of Enerhodar and the site of the Zaporizhzhia NPP were occupied by the Russian military. Russian invaders destroyed the physical perimeter of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, the administrative building and the training center were damaged. About fifty units of enemy equipment and about 500 Russian armed soldiers entered the territory of the plant. On March 14, the Russian occupying forces detonated ammunition in the immediate vicinity of the ZNPP power units that did not explode during the shelling of the plant. As a result of hostile actions, high-voltage power lines connected to the ZNPP were damaged. Of the four high-voltage lines, only one remained operational. Therefore, the capacity of the working power units of the ZNPP was reduced.
Russian invaders are holding personnel captive, destroying power grids and shelling defense structures, thus creating the threat of radiation accidents.
The Russians have placed heavy military equipment near the ZNPP site, ammunition is stored next to the power units, under overpasses, and part of the ammunition is inside the turbine halls of the power units.
And again on August 5, the site of the ZNPP was fired upon by Russian terrorists. At one of the power units of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, emergency protection was activated, diesel generators, which guarantee the operation of safety systems, were activated. The power unit was unloaded and disconnected from the power grid. As a result of shelling, the nitrogen-oxygen station and the combined auxiliary building were damaged.
On August 6, the Russian occupiers again fired rockets at the site of the Zaporizhzhia NPP and the city of Enerhodar. According to the NNEGC “Energoatom”, Russian missiles hit the site of the ZNPP near the plant’s dry storage facility of spent nuclear fuel, where 174 containers of nuclear fuel are currently stored. Radiation monitoring sensors around the territory of the spent nuclear fuel storage facility were damaged due to rocket fire by Russian troops, so detection and response in case of deterioration of the radiation situation or leakage of radiation from spent nuclear fuel containers is now impossible. It is also noted that about 800 square meters were damaged due to numerous small debris from the explosions of window surfaces in various buildings of the plant. As a result of the explosions, one ZNPP employee received a missile wound. At the same time, all Russian military personnel who were on the territory of the ZNPP, as well as Rosatom personnel, hid in advance in the bomb shelters of the nuclear plant.
The Russians do not hide their plans and are already openly blackmailing the whole world, declaring that they are mining the Zaporizhzhia NPP and that they are ready to blow it up. For example, in his statement, the head of the radiation, chemical and biological defense forces of the Russian armed forces, Major General Valerii Vasyliev, who now commands the garrison of the ZNPP, said, “there will be either Russian soil or a scorched desert. We mined all the important objects of the Zaporozhye nuclear plant. And we do not hide this from the enemy. We warned them. The enemy knows that the station will be either Russian or nobody’s. We are ready for the consequences of this step. And if there is the most severe order, we must fulfill it with honor.” In my opinion, only a sick person can say that.
The NNEGC “Energoatom” stated that the acts of nuclear terrorism at the Zaporizhzhia NPP – its artillery shelling – are aimed at destroying the station’s infrastructure and damaging all power transmission lines, through which electricity goes into the energy system of Ukraine. The situation is greatly complicated by the invaders placing their military equipment with weapons and explosives in the turbine halls of power units No. 1 and No. 2. And this is in addition to the mining of the NPP power units and the shoreline of the plant.
In the event of the worst scenarios in case of damage to external power supply networks, as well as the impossibility of operating the emergency power supply systems at the ZNPP itself, the time before the destruction of nuclear fuel in the reactors, which are stopped due to power failure, is only a few hours. An example of such an accident at a fully de-energized nuclear power plant is the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP in 2011, which resulted in fuel damage, destruction of the protective barriers of the nuclear installation, and a significant release of radioactive substances into the environment.
Therefore, the situation at the ZNPP indicates a high level of probability of a nuclear and radiation disaster, the consequences of which will feel not only Ukraine, but also other European countries. Taking into account the possible actions directed by the enemy to prevent restoration work on power supply lines or to prevent the replenishment of fuel reserves for reserve diesel stations at the NPP, there is a high risk of significant radiation consequences in the event of an accident at a power unit that is in the state of “operation at capacity”.
In the world, there is only one case of combat operations near the Krsko NPP, Slovenia (KRSKO, one PWR unit, 700 MW) during the 1991 war. The NPP continued to operate, but the station was not under fire and was not occupied. It was after this that security specialists under the auspices of the IAEA conducted an analysis that noted that the safest state of the NPP in the event of a military attack is a “cold shutdown”. Thus, at NPPs that are in the zone of the most “probable” damage, it is advisable to put all power units into a “cold shutdown” state.
Moreover, the presence of military equipment, ammunition and Russian occupiers at the ZNPP site, as well as the mining of power units and communications around the station, is a violation of the conditions of safe operation, reflected in the safety analysis report. Under such conditions, from the point of view of safety, it is advisable to put all power units of the ZNPP into a “cold shutdown” state.
On August 4, 2022 (even before the shelling of the ZNPP site), a meeting of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate Board was held, at which the safety issue of the occupied Zaporizhia NPP operation was considered, in particular in connection with the placement of military equipment by the Russian occupiers in the turbine halls of power units No. 1 and No. 2. Based on the results of the discussion, the Board decided: the situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP site, which is under control of the Russian military, the placement of military equipment with ammunition, weapons and explosives on the territory of nuclear facilities, to be recognized as nuclear terrorism by the Russian Federation.
It is noted that, according to experts, active hostilities and the presence of the Russian military directly at the ZNPP site can make it impossible for the nuclear plant personnel to perform direct functions of controlling the nuclear reactor under normal operation conditions, disrupt normal operation, and cause design and post-design accidents. Placing military equipment and ammunition on the industrial site and in the turbine halls of power units No. 1 and No. 2 of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, in the event of their use or detonation, may cause damage to systems and elements important for safety. This, in turn, can lead to severe damage to nuclear fuel with subsequent radiation pollution of the environment and radiation exposure of personnel and the population. It is emphasized that due to the occupation of the NPP and adjacent territories, it is impossible to implement the functions of protecting personnel and the population in the event of a nuclear or radiation accident.
The panel proposed to include additional conditions in the license for operation in the state of “cold shutdown” for power units No. 1 and No. 2 of the ZNPP (where the military equipment and explosives of the occupiers are stored in the turbine halls).
Of course, the operating organization, which for Ukrainian NPPs is the NNEGC “Energoatom”, is responsible for the safety of nuclear facilities. And it is the operating organization that must make decisions regarding the transfer of NPP power units to the “cold shutdown” state, and the decision of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate Board is of a recommendatory nature.
NNEGC “Energoatom” claims that today there is only one scenario – it is the stable and reliable operation of the ZNNP in the energy system of Ukraine, and “its disconnection is impossible from a technical, safety, economic, or political point of view.” At the same time, the employees of the nuclear plant do everything possible and impossible to ensure the reliable operation of the plant. “Working under intense pressure from the occupiers, risking their lives and health, worrying about what to feed and how to save their family in Enerhodar, they carry out the safe operation of the plant’s nuclear power units every day.”
In this situation, an important role is assigned to the international community, which must use all mechanisms for the withdrawal of the military from the largest nuclear facility in Europe and its complete demilitarization. It is necessary to carry out all possible measures with the aim of withdrawing armed Russian soldiers from the plant and the entire surrounding territory, in particular from the city of Enerhodar.
Instead, the Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, “woke up” and issued a statement in which he expressed another “deep concern” over the attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and emphasized the need to send the IAEA nuclear safety mission to the ZNPP as soon as possible, which will include safety and security experts.
Grossi noted that the shelling highlights the very real danger of a nuclear disaster, which could threaten the health of the population and the environment in Ukraine and beyond. He called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint near this important nuclear facility, adding that he condemned any acts of violence committed at or near the ZNPP or against its personnel. According to Grossi, the IAEA inspectors should carry out the necessary inspection measures at the plant, as well as provide objective and independent information about the condition of the facility.
However, since the beginning of the war, like many other international organizations, the IAEA has practically not reacted to the events in Ukraine. The IAEA, unfortunately, limited itself only to concerned appeals to the world community and did not point to the guilt of the sole culprit of these events – the Russian Federation as a terrorist state. As we all understand, this is not enough. “Condemned”, “expressed concern” – all these words have no effect on the aggressor country. There should be tough action. Understanding the full responsibility and consequences of the reckless attack on the nuclear facilities of Ukraine, as well as the Russian Federation’s complete disregard for the principles of peace, security and unity, it is necessary to call on all countries and international organizations:
- to recognize the military actions of the Russian Federation against the nuclear facilities of Ukraine as acts of nuclear terrorism;
- to recognize the Russian Federation as a nuclear terrorist country;
- to limit Russia’s access to the latest nuclear technologies;
- to introduce sanctions for the Russian nuclear industry;
- to cancel completely cooperation with the Russian Federation in the nuclear sphere;
- to exclude the Russian Federation, as well as all representatives of the Russian Federation from governing bodies.
The entire world community must understand and know that Russia is currently a nuclear terrorist country that has seized the Zaporizhzhia NPP with military action and is threatening the entire world in order to play on Europeans’ fear of a nuclear disaster.
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, stated that another Russian crime and an open act of nuclear terror is not only an argument for recognizing it as a state sponsor of terrorism, but also an argument in favor of applying tough sanctions against the entire Russian nuclear industry, from Rosatom to all related companies and individuals. The President of Ukraine also added, “He who creates nuclear threats for other nations is definitely not capable of using atomic technologies safely.”
Academician of the NAS of Ukraine, Director of the ISP NPP, member of the NCRP of Ukraine
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