Russian control of Ukrainian nuclear power plant scares Chernobyl cleanup chief

In 1986, Sergii Mirnyi, the commander of the Chernobyl radiological reconnaissance platoon, was honored for his service in the disaster...

In 1986, Sergii Mirnyi, the commander of the Chernobyl radiological reconnaissance platoon, was honored for his service in the disaster. After the nuclear facility closed, he continued to work as a physical chemist and produced a book, screenplay and documentary about the disaster.

I was woken up by a phone call from Ukrainian national radio in the middle of the night. The worried voice informed me that fighting was raging at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe with six nuclear reactors. I have been asked to comment on the potential consequences and scale of this Russian attack.

As commander of a radiological reconnaissance platoon in the Chernobyl zone, I saw firsthand the devastation of the famous nuclear disaster of 1986. In my worst nightmares, I never imagined that I would be asked to provide comments and advice regarding the ongoing siege of a nuclear facility.

My efforts to contain the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster took a heavy toll, to say the least, both mentally and physically.

After 35 days of 24-hour work, it took me more than six months to physically recover from the exhaustion and physical trauma caused by the radiation and more than two years to overcome the first acute phase of the psychological trauma. The scars of what I saw at Chernobyl will last a lifetime.

Now, as an international nuclear expert, I find myself transported back to the darkest days in Ukraine’s history, as Chernobyl once again grabbed the headlines since Vladimir Putin’s forces bombed and eventually stormed the Zaporizhzhya nuclear facility.

The magnitude of the potential devastation at Zaporizhzhya could dwarf that of Chernobyl. The failure of a single reactor could have a domino effect. To put it bluntly, Europe – still living in the shadow of the single-reactor accident at Chernobyl – could see a six-reactor disaster at Zaporizhzhya.

Fortunately, Putin’s assault on the site, consisting largely of tank-reinforced motorized infantry platoons, not heavy artillery fire or missile attacks, resulted in no radioactive contamination.

But there is little room for complacency in the face of the extent of Russian recklessness. Moscow’s military forces and their government have already shown a gross disregard for all civilized norms, human rights and international law of conflict. It has already become fairly obvious that nothing prevents them from besieging the nuclear infrastructure of this country.

Not only did Russian forces bomb a nuclear facility, but they refused to let Ukrainian firefighters into burning buildings. Since the capture of Zaporizhzhya, personnel have worked at gunpoint, further aggravating the pressure cooker’s situation.

Across Ukraine, there are 15 nuclear reactors in operation at four main sites and another four reactors (now defunct) at Chernobyl. Not content with the occupation of Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya, the Russians are now turning their attention to the power station in southern Ukraine, located about a hundred kilometers from the front line.

Other nuclear facilities are vulnerable to further missile and airstrike attacks, with the potential that the resulting radioactive cloud will engulf not just Ukraine but all of Europe.

What surprises and frightens me at the same time is the lack of reaction from the international community and the competent authorities in the face of flagrant nuclear terrorism.

For decades, the world has monitored attempts to smuggle even minute amounts of radioactive material; grams or pounds of fission material were monitored very strictly. Today, thugs – lawless, ignorant and armed – control hundreds of tons of highly radioactive material but do not understand the destructive power right in the palm of their hands.

In response, we have seen silence from the United Nations, Western national governments and even the International Atomic Energy Agency. Article II of the IAEA statute states that it “shall ensure, within its means, that the assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in a to serve military purposes”. Do Putin’s actions violate this in the strongest possible terms?

The lack of firm condemnation – or better yet, real sanctions – from the international community and professional nuclear authorities shows that they are either blind or powerless. Maybe both.

Putin and the Russian state have gone beyond destroying principles and are now destroying power plants. If we don’t act now, we will all have to revive the fallout shelters of my Chernobyl nightmares.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Russian control of Ukrainian nuclear power plant scares Chernobyl cleanup chief
Russian control of Ukrainian nuclear power plant scares Chernobyl cleanup chief
Newsrust - US Top News
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