The Threat Surrounding Ukraine’s Nuclear Plant
The world was shocked when the news of the Ukraine and Russia war broke out. Many people were surprised at the fact that it was so sudden, and tensions between the two countries escalated so quickly. The conflict is still going on, which has resulted in an economic recession, high fuel costs, and sky-high living expenses. However, everything takes a backseat when it comes to the threat of Ukraine’s nuclear plant; UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, stated that if the Zaporizhzhia plant is damaged, it would be considered a suicide. Even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also chimed in and stated that the world is not ready for another Chornobyl – the worst nuclear accident the world has seen to date.
At the beginning of the war, Russia had seized the left bank of the River Dnieper. However, in August, the two countries accused each other of repeated shelling. Both the countries claim that measures are being conducted to provoke each other, and Ukrainian officials have even stated that a Russian film crew has staged an attack, which is to be blamed on Kyiv. On the other hand, the Russian defense officials are stating that the Ukrainian plant could produce a radioactive cloud that could spread across neighboring countries like Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. With a situation like this at hand, what is the reality behind this threat?
A Strong Structure
According to Mark Wenman, head of the Center for Doctoral Training in Nuclear Energy Futures, this threat is not quite worrying. He justifies his answer by stating the plant’s history and that its infrastructure was developed in the 1980s. This means the facility can be considered relatively modern, which is why it has a solid containment building. The building consists of 1.75m thick and heavily reinforced concrete, which is based on a seismic bed. This means that it can easily implement damage control protocols and withstand earthquakes. So, it would be a lot of effort to breach that.
When the topic of Chornobyl and Fukushima came up, Wenman rejected the comparison, claiming that it was the serious design flaws that caused the Chornobyl accident, and in the Fukushima incident, the diesel generators had been flooded. The Ukrainian nuclear plant steers clear of these issues, making it difficult to consider it a threat. But does this mean there is no threat to the nuclear plant?
A Threat Indeed
Well, serious problems can arise if the power supply to the nuclear reactor and the backup generators is halted, resulting in the loss of coolant. Once there isn’t anything to cool down the hot reactor core, the fuel inside would begin to melt. The Head of the Russian nuclear protection corps, Lt Gen Igor Kirillov, has stated that the support systems have already been affected by the shelling, which could lead to a problem at the plant.
Claire Corkhill, a professor at the University of Sheffield, mentions that the damage to the nuclear plant might not be of the same scale as the Chornobyl accident, but it could still result in radioactivity being spread through the wind.
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