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Ukraine’s Biggest Nuclear Plant Needs a Safety Zone

Atomic energy experts are calling for protections for the Zaporizhzhya plant, which has become a pawn in the war, thanks to power outages and nearby shelling.

Wired, Ramin Skibba, 28 Oct 22,

EUROPE’S LARGEST NUCLEAR power plant lies in the middle of a war zone, posing an ever-present risk of radiation leaks as the conflict following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drags on. The most immediate dangers include the possibility of an errant missile or shell blowing up waste containers, or a protracted power outage that would prevent workers from keeping spent fuel rods cool, a situation that could eventually lead to a radioactive release……………………………….

To reduce tensions and safety risks at Zaporizhzhya, Grossi and the IAEA are calling for a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the plant, including its reactors, nuclear waste, spent fuel pools, and energy and cooling systems. Establishing this zone would mandate an end to shelling near the plant, and to military activities that can affect power supply systems. It also calls for the removal of military vehicles from areas where they could affect safety and security systems, and reestablishing an appropriate work environment for operating staff, with clear lines of responsibilities, so that the workers continue reporting to Ukrainian government officials, not Russian ones.

Earlier this month, Grossi met with Putin in St. Petersburg, and with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, to make the case. “It is imperative to agree to this as soon as possible,” he said, according to an IAEA statement on October 18. Both leaders have signaled some interest in the plan: Zelensky has said he would back such a zone if it were aimed at demilitarizing the plant, while Putin told the state Tass news agency that Russia is open to dialog about all issues involving the plant’s operations.

Yet Ukraine’s push for a “demilitarized” zone would go further than the IAEA’s proposal by requiring Russia to completely withdraw its forces and effectively abandon the plant to Ukraine, which Russia is unlikely to do, says George Moore, a nuclear scientist at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.

Negotiating a ceasefire within a well-defined perimeter would be more politically achievable, he thinks. That would mean taking care to avoid firing mortars, missiles, or drone weapons anywhere in the area. “Hopefully good sense would prevail, but it hasn’t seemed to,” Moore says.

Until Ukraine and Russia reach an agreement, the plant remains in danger. “There’s no question: There should not be any military operations at the plant or in the vicinity of the plant,” says Ed Lyman, senior global security scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and coauthor of the book Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster. But, he continues, while neither military’s soldiers have deliberately fired on the plant, anything can happen in the fog of war. A misfired weapon or a missile shot down in the wrong place could exacerbate an already dangerous situation. ………………………………………. more


October 28, 2022 - Posted by | safety, Ukraine

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