Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant: Present Situation
- Russian control: The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant station has been under Russian control since last few months.
- Currently, the nuclear plant is being operated by Ukrainian staff but guarded by Russian soldiers.
- Attacks on plant: Intense shelling and mortar attacks from both the parties have damaged critical infrastructure related to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant
- Both Russia and Ukraine have been accusing each other of running false flag operation to damage the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant and put blame on the other.
- Radiation levels: Despite being hit by shelling and being damaged, the radiation level around the plant has been stable.
- This is the first time that a nuclear installation has been caught in a military conflict, that too one that is in operation.
Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant
- The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant has six reactors, which can together produce about 5,700 MW of electricity.
- The nuclear plant is located on the southern shore of the Kakhovka Reservoir on the Dnieper river.
- The plant produces nearly half of the country’s electricity derived from nuclear power, and contributes to more than a fifth of total electricity generated in Ukraine.
Possibility of Damage to the Nuclear Reactor
- Structural integrity: Modern nuclear reactors are built to withstand considerable shock and impact. They are built with several layers of reinforced steel and concrete, and also elaborate fire security systems.
- Most of these reactors can survive earthquakes of magnitude 8 or higher. They are also designed to shut down automatically when they sense major natural hazards.
- Direct target: Gunfire or even shelling is unlikely to cause much harm to the reactor. However, powerful bombs or missile attacks can seriously damage reactor and trigger nuclear disaster.
- Other critical infrastructure: Buildings and water pools for storing used and unused nuclear fuel are not as sturdy as the reactor, and can suffer significant damage in heavy fighting.
- Cooling system: The reactor needs external electricity for running cooling system. In absence of cooling system, the reactor can heat up and explode.
- Damage to the electrical lines feeding the reactor can affect the safety of the reactor.
- Human error: Currently a small staff is operating the plant, which has led to understaffing.
- Overworked and stressed workers and engineers can cause serious errors, leading to disasters.
- Stealing of nuclear fuel: Rogue elements can make use of the situation to steal nuclear material from the site.
- They can use nuclear material to make dirty bombs, or to sell it in the illegal nuclear market.
- Ukraine is currently a member of nuclear NPT and every bit of nuclear material and fuel is accounted
- Nuclear disaster is an event arising from leakage of nuclear radiation that can cause significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility.
- The prime example of nuclear disaster is in which a reactor core is damaged and significant amounts of radioactive isotopes are emitted.
Protection: Potassium iodide can be used to protect thyroid from radioactive iodine. It is used during a nuclear radiation emergency.