Nuclear Power Plant Attacked In Ukraine

Over the past few weeks, major concern has grown surrounding Russian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine. Continual damage to the plant has drawn attention from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Security Council as well as the G7 powers who said Russia must immediately relinquish control of Zaporizhzhia. Further damage to the nuclear plant could be catastrophic to the region and reflect the recklessness of the military campaign. Both Russia and Ukraine are accusing each other of perpetrating the attacks on the nuclear plant but it remains unclear exactly what spurred the attack, only that it was extremely dangerous.

Major players in the Russian invasion of Ukraine have commented on the severity of the situation and the reality of the risk for nuclear catastrophe. The United Nations Secretary-General has called the use of a nuclear plant as a military pawn by attacking it “suicidal,” according to United Nations News Report on the topic. The IAEA – the agency primarily responsible for monitoring global nuclear activity and ensuring state compliance with international rules intended to enforce the regulation of nuclear power – has stated that they must be able to begin a mission to inspect and repair the Zaporizhzhia plant. Rafael Mariano Grossi, the Director General of the IAEA, will address the UN Security Council to describe the severity of the situation detailing how the shelling “breached virtually all the seven indispensable nuclear safety and security pillars” that had been outlined at the beginning of the conflict.

Russia took control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in March of this year, precipitating widespread concern at the possibility of a tragedy similar to Chernobyl, which occurred in Ukraine over 30 years prior. The shelling that took place on the 6th and 7th of August, validated these fears. Although Russia has control of the plant, it is still being operated by Ukrainian staff, putting them at risk in the attack and injuring one of them, according to The Washington Post. The shelling damaged three radiation monitoring sensors; one of the six reactors; and the communication lines between the nuclear plant, the hydroelectric power plant, and the Ukrainian energy system.

Because of the Russian occupation of Zaporizhzhia, the nuclear plant immediately became a target of military conflict. For this reason, as reported by Reuters, the Group of Seven nations demanded that “the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as well as of all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders to ensure their safe and secure operations.”

Additional consequences of the Russia occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant include the inability of the plant to fully operate and provide for the Ukrainian people who are dependent on nuclear energy. The director of the Arms Control Association, Daryl G. Kimball,  has pointed out the inability of the plant to maintain power due to a limited amount of backup power.

The damages done to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant demonstrate the severity of allowing a nuclear plant to be compromised within a military conflict, and the violation of vital nuclear safety protocols is extremely dangerous. The possibility of further damages to nuclear power plants may have devastating health and environmental consequences for Ukrainians and those located in all surrounding regions.

Britt Gronmeyer