Coming Ukraine Offensive Stokes More Nuclear Fears

May 4, 2023

I’m sure this will be fine.


Russia-installed managers at the Moscow-occupied atomic energy power plant in Zaporizhzhia are trying to leave the site over concerns about Ukraine’s expected counteroffensive, according to the country’s nuclear operator.

Energoatom said on Telegram that the Moscow-appointed director of the site, Yuriy Chernichuk, had left the town of Enerhodar, where the plant is located, for occupied Crimea on Monday. The Ukrainian state enterprise had also said that the “pseudo management” of the site had urgently asked to go on leave.

“The current so-called managers of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant show a desire to ‘rest’ en masse closer to the Kerch Strait, asking the Russians to go on vacation,” said the post, according to a translation. The Kerch Strait separates Russia from Russian-occupied Crimea.

“However, due to the critical lack of personnel, middle-level ‘managers’ have not agreed to this,” the post added.

“The traitors are looking for ways to evacuate, because they understand that the (Ukrainian) Armed Forces are already close, so there is very little time left to escape,” it said.


Representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that the Russian occupiers had placed military equipment, weapons, and explosives in the premises of the turbine section of power unit No. 4 at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant they captured more than a year ago.

That’s according to Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Ukrinform reports.

“This became known during the weekly communication meeting between the IAEA Crisis Center (IEC) and the State Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding the activities of the IAEA mission at the Zaporizhia NPP site, held on May 2, 2023,” the report reads.

Foreign Policy:

Zaporizhzhia, one of the four regions Russia has annexed and claimed as a part of the Russian Federation, is at the heart of Ukraine’s strategy for its much-touted spring counteroffensive. The rationale for focusing on Zaporizhzhia is clear enough: It lies on the land corridor along the Sea of Azov that connects Russian troops with their supply lines in eastern Ukraine all the way from the Donbas region to Crimea.

It also poses a distinct military challenge, however. Russians are still holed up in the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, implicitly threatening a nuclear catastrophe were Ukrainian forces parked on the other side of the Dnipro River to try to reclaim the region.

Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, which fulfilled 20 percent of Ukraine’s electricity needs in peacetime, is on the front line of the war. A small action, deliberate or accidental, could trigger a meltdown at the site, with devastating impact on human life and the environment.


3 Responses to “Coming Ukraine Offensive Stokes More Nuclear Fears”

  1. John Oneill Says:

    I understand the last of the six reactors at the Zaporizhzhye plant has been in cold shutdown since September 11 2022, three others since February. Once fission stops, there’s an asymptotic fall in the heat output – the most active fission products, and therefore the hottest, have the shortest half-lives. After a year, heat output is about 1% of the previous power level, and the last reactor had only been running at part load, to power cooling for the other ones. That should allow some time if outside power, and that from the emergency diesel generators, are both lost. Failing that, the containment domes are five foot thick reinforced concrete, so it will take some severe trauma to let whatever’s inside, out. Green Party member Chaim Nissim fired five bazooka rounds at the Creys-Malville reactor in France in 1982, without much effect; Russian shelling around Zaporizhzhye has so far only damaged the operator training simulator.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I have no doubt that the Zaporizhzhia reactors have domes designed to be that resilient. After the NOLA levees failed below specification* from Katrina, flooding my families houses, plus watching probably too many failure analysis videos that uncover jaw-droppingly incompetent (or corrupt) construction, I always take such assurances with a grain of salt.

      *After Katrina, the public was assured that the levees around Sacramento were dependable, but it only takes one weak spot, as we have seen this Spring.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Meanwhile, there are news reports that the Russians have been doing reconnaissance on the underwater gas pipelines, wind farm cables and data cables presumably to know where to hit them if war escalates to Europe as a whole. (The story only mentioned scouting, but I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that some of that infrastructure has already been rigged for remote detonation in the future.)

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