According to nuclear experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which sets safety standards for nuclear reactors around the world and inspects them for compliance, the failed Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, as well as the country’s 15 operational reactors, are safe and secure in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A reactor specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Mass., said that the only real concern is whether or not a nearby target was struck, resulting in collateral damage.
In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power station had a meltdown, which resulted in radioactive clouds sweeping over Europe and the creation of a wasteland of contaminated soil in the surrounding area. Despite the fact that all four Chernobyl reactors are currently shut down, the plant’s work team continues to regularly monitor the safety of the plant’s Unit 4 reactor, which erupted and caught fire in 1986. The abandoned factory is surrounded by an exclusion zone spanning hundreds of square kilometres, with the goal of preventing public access and inhabitation.
One of Russia’s primary invasion routes is via the vast factory, which is around 10 miles from Belarus, a Russian ally. Western analysts have said that if Moscow’s goal is regime change rather than national devastation, it is in its best interests to maintain Ukraine’s reactors and electrical grid operating efficiently at all times.
A direct attack, according to R. Scott Kemp, a professor of nuclear physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “is a possibility.” I believe they will try all in their power to prevent this because they do not want to face with the ramifications of doing so.”
Dr. Kemp believes that the deterioration of Ukraine’s electrical system poses the greatest concern, since it has the potential to bring nuclear power facilities down and cause a cascade of blackouts.
Earlier this week, Ukraine’s government issued a statement on its official website warning that the Russian invasion and military occupation of Chernobyl “may result in another ecological tragedy.” According to the administration, if the conflict continues, a tragedy similar to Chernobyl “may happen again in 2022.”
Nuclear specialists, on the other hand, did not sound any warnings. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said in a statement on Thursday that the agency’s Ukrainian counterpart had reported that the country’s 15 nuclear power reactors were working in a safe manner. He went on to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had suffered “neither fatalities nor devastation,” according to the Ukrainian government.
On Friday, the agency noticed reports of “increased radiation measurements at the Chernobyl site,” and it cited Ukraine’s nuclear watchdog as suggesting that the readings may have been caused by heavy military vehicles disturbing up soil that had been poisoned by the 1986 catastrophe, according to the agency.
In addition, the agency noted that the reported values “are low and have remained within the operating range measured in the Exclusion Zone since it was formed, and as a result, pose no hazard to the general population.”
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ukraine obtains slightly more than half of its power from nuclear reactors, which is an extraordinarily high proportion.
Two of Ukraine’s four operating nuclear facilities are located in the country’s western area, far away from Russia’s primary invasion routes and, thus, out of harm’s way, according to experts. Both of the other locations are in the southern area, which is significantly closer to the current military operations.
Ukraine’s biggest nuclear power station, Zaporizhzhia, is home to six nuclear reactors, making it the country’s largest atomic power facility. It is located on the Dnieper River, about 100 miles north of the Crimean Peninsula. During the 2014 Russian invasion of southern Ukraine, the peninsular region became a staging place for Russian soldiers, and the separatist territory has become a major assault route for the Russian military.
In a recent report, the World Nuclear Association, a trade group for the nuclear energy industry based in London, stated that Energoatom, the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power company, had detailed some rules intended to improve the safety and security of its nuclear power plants during times of war.
Early this month, as Russia bolstered its military presence in Ukraine, Petro Kotin, the acting president of Energoatom, outlined how a nuclear facility would be forced to shut down and how its operators would dump radioactive material “until the danger has been gone,” according to the organisation.
Backup generators would be activated if a plant’s external electrical power source were to fail, Mr. Kotin said, ensuring that reactor management could continue uninterrupted. He was reported as claiming that Ukraine’s nuclear power stations are “ready for such a mode of operation: the stock of diesel fuel placed at nuclear power plants greatly surpasses the specified criteria.”
The World Nuclear Association said on Friday that the security divisions of Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities are “on high alert,” according to the organisation.