At Chernobyl and other power plants, the risk of a nuclear disaster

Intensified bombardment of Kharkov, the country’s second largest city. A 60 km long Russian convoy heading to Kyiv. And Moscow, in the voice of Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, guarantees that the fighting will continue “until the set goals are achieved” …

Tensions have not diminished further in Ukraine on Tuesday, and, of course, the number of victims of conflict has increased. According to Ukrainian paramedics, bombardment in the center of Kharkov killed at least 10 civilians during the day. But the more intensified the bombing, the closer another threat is. It is a nuclear accident in Ukraine.

“The first such conflict has occurred in a nuclear power.”

“It’s the first time in the world that a nuclear power has been exposed to such intense airstrikes and other turmoil in modern warfare,” remembers Jackie Bonnemain, chairman of Robins de Bois. Nuclear safety and security issues around the world. Ukraine draws almost 50% of its electricity from atoms because it has 15 pressurized water reactors dispersed in four power plants. Includes Europe’s largest near Zaporizhia in the heart of the country with six reactors.

To prove that the threat has been taken seriously, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hold an emergency meeting of the Board to “Investigate the Current Situation of Ukraine” this Wednesday at 11:00 am. “Accidents affecting Ukraine’s nuclear facilities can have serious public health and environmental consequences,” said the IAEA’s president in daily updates since the beginning of the conflict. Mariano Grossi of Argentina recalls. Ukrainian nuclear facility.

The threat of accidental shooting?

In it, I immediately think of the location of the former Chernobyl power plant in the northern part of the country, a few kilometers away from the Belarusian border, which will serve as a rear base for Russian troops in this conflict. Roland Desbordes, a spokesman for the Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity (CRIIRAD), describes the site as “a huge repository of nuclear waste.” “Some were hurriedly buried nearby so that the radioactive elements could be easily resuspended,” he says. Did it just happen? The Chernobyl site was under Russian control overnight from Thursday to Friday. As a result of Ukrainian safety authorities, an increase in radioactive atmosphere has been observed. This explains the resuspension of pollution due to the passage of tanks in this area. The French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), as part of it, states that it remains cautious about these measures at this stage.

For Jackie Bonnemains and Roland Desboldes, the risk of a conflict in Ukraine leading to a nuclear disaster is less important in Chernobyl than the four power plants currently operating in the country. “It seems unlikely that Russia would target these nuclear facilities as an attack, but there is a risk of a little more isolation in international affairs,” he said in the first announcement. Meanwhile, they remain exposed to accidental strikes from either side. It has already happened since the conflict began. According to Ukrainian safety officials, the missile reached the final disposal site for radioactive waste in Kyiv and warned the IAEA on Sunday. “The building has not been damaged and no radioactive release has been reported,” the latter identifies. Luck stroke? “The Ukrainian nuclear fleet is comparable to the fleets of other countries, including France,” recalls Jackie Bonnemains. In other words, their reactors are dilapidated and the adjacent cooling pools [là où est entreposé le combustible irradié en attente d’un retraitement ou d’un stockage définitif] It wasn’t designed to withstand missiles and artillery at all. »**

Loss of power supply and staff stress

Accidental shooting is not the only potential cause of an accident. Jacky Bonnemains also argues that “if the pylon or the line itself is destroyed by intentional or accidental bombing,” power to the reactor could be lost. In that case, the risk would be to “endanger the active cooling of the reactor and spent fuel pool,” said Jan Vande Putte, a nuclear activist in Greenpeace Belgium, in an interview. .. To Echoes, Monday. As the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan reminded us in 2011, the big problem is to stay safe, “shows IRSN in an information note released Friday. .. The institute states that these remedies have been strengthened since Fukushima. Not enough to reassure Jackie Bonnemain.

A Robins Devore spokesman has identified a third risk. It is the risk of psychological stress on the personnel of these nuclear facilities. “These employees can also be physically affected by the conflict, lose their loved ones and want to escape,” he lists. Problems that Mariano Grossi does not ignore. In the IAEA Daily Updates, he emphasized that “all nuclear facility personnel should be able to work and rest,” and to those who effectively manage these sites “actions that could be unsafe.” I’m asking you not to take it or put too much pressure on it.

White flag on nuclear site

So what do you expect from this emergency meeting convened by the IAEA on Wednesday? “Not so much”, slice Roland Desboldes. Roland Desboldes does not know how agencies can influence the current battle. On his side, Jackie Bonnemains wants at least one thing, a more symbolic order. “The IAEA has ordered all member states, including Russia, to recognize the inviolability of nuclear sites on the stage of war if the treaties governing the use of war today are legally invalid. “He insists.

Missed? The resolution to be submitted for consideration on Wednesday has not been advanced so far, according to Reuters. The text condemns Russia’s intervention “in the strongest words.” He also expressed “deep concern” for Russia’s actions to “significantly increase the risk of nuclear accidents and accidents that endanger the people of Ukraine, neighboring countries and the international community.” Russia will also suspend all military operations at the Chernobyl power plant and elsewhere and “enable the Ukrainian authorities in its jurisdiction to maintain or quickly regain full control of all nuclear power plants.” I am asking for. According to the news agency, diplomats say the version could be watered down to gain more support.