5 facts you need to know about nuclear threats in Ukraine 

Photo: AP

  1. On 24 February 2022, Russian military forces seized the Chornobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) and the whole 30-km exclusion zone contaminated after Chernobyl accident in 1986. While the plant has not been operated already for many years, there are more than 22 000 highly-radioactive spent fuel assemblies in storages on the ChNPP territory. The ruined nuclear reactor #4 also contains highly radiative materials underneath the newly built Confinement. None of the storages no the confinement were designed to withstand military actions with rockets and artillery. 
  1. During 24-25 February, a significant gamma radiation spike in Chernobyl zone was registered. In some areas, radiation level exceeded 10-15 times the average annual level. Specialists say it could be due to contaminated radioactive dust that was released in the air due to the movement of a large number of heavy military equipment or damage to the insulation and structural integrity of the confinements of radioactive materials like spent fuel or radioactive waste. Currently, Ukrainian state nuclear authority do not have regulatory control over the situation in Chernobyl exclusion zone and there is no reliable source of information about the situation on site. 
  1. Military action in the exclusion zone poses a grave danger to not only Ukraine but Europe as a whole. The Chornobyl exclusion zone territory could be used for setting up an additional launch site for Russian missiles knowing that the Ukrainian military will not retaliate fearing the worst outcome. In another scenario, it could also be used as a bargaining chip during the “peace talks”, or face destruction during retreat to cause significant damage.
  1. On the night of March 4th, Russian military forces seized one of the operating nuclear power plants in Ukraine – Zaporizhzhia NPP. With six nuclear units and an on-site spent nuclear storage, this nuclear plant is the largest in Europe.  Russian army committed shelling of the power plant territory, captured on video, resulting in a fire in one of the buildings on site close to the first reactor. The fire was extinguished, and no “essential” equipment was, luckily, affected. Any continues fighting close to this or any other NPP could be extremely dangerous!  
  1. None of the Ukrainian NPPs (as well as any NPPs in the world) is designed to withstand an act of war, and radioactive emissions from a missile hit in an operating nuclear power plant can exceed those from Chernobyl and Fukushima! Military actions can disrupt off-site power plants or transmission lines servicing nuclear reactors, and could also prevent diesel fuel from reaching the plant to replenish standby generators, which can further lead to a disastrous scenarios of meltdown and radioactivity release into atmosphere.