Zaporizhzhia, the nightmare of the nuclear power plant remains

The six large reactors are shut down, but for scientists the level of risk is still very high. The reason? The 'human factor'

  zaporizhzhia-ukraina-oggi-38 An aerial view of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Video

“It's never a good idea to fire bombs on a nuclear power plant. A war between reactors and radioactive material depots has never been seen. Even if the plant is built with the most modern safety systems, the risk of catastrophe always exists. Zaporizhzhia should house engineers and technicians, not armed soldiers ». Institute of Nuclear Physics, Odessa Polytechnic: we deliberately went to the least warlike and furthest possible place from the duel between Moscow and Kiev propaganda to try to understand how much a nuclear disaster really is possible in Europe. video | video 1

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VICTORIES AND ... - The recent Ukrainian victories around Kharkiv cannot make us forget the knot of the power plant. Academics and scholars work at the Institute who, unlike the spokesmen of Rosatom and Enorgatom (respectively the Russian and Ukrainian official nuclear bodies), are not inclined to alarmism. In fact, both the 72-year-old Oleg Zotev and the 68-year-old Volodymyr Kravchencko, considered among the top experts on the subject, who among other things continue to have direct contacts with their collaborators who remained in the Russian-occupied plant, substantially support the same concepts.

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THE POSITIVE ASPECTS - “You don't need to cry wolf wolf. We would like to reassure European citizens: there will be no second Chernobyl. The Zaporizhzhia power plant, which was built in Soviet times with similar criteria to that of Chernobyl destroyed by the 1986 disaster, was then completely modernized under European control after the accident at the Japanese one in Fukushima in 2011. Its six reactors were originally protected from a small layer of tar and graphite, which amplified the damage in the hellfire of the two Chernobyl reactors. But then they were sealed in steel suits covered with thick layers of concrete designed to withstand the impact of an airliner, 'they argue. Basically, bullets have not been too urgent a threat to date. The situation was improved last Saturday by the decision to shut down the last reactor as well. So far the positive part.

THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS - However, it is precisely the imponderables of the war that lead scientists to add a note of uncertainty. 'The problem lies in the fact that, if the fighting continues to invest the area of ​​the plant, then certainly the situation could slip out of control. As the technicians of the commission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (Aiea) have already pointed out, a blockage of the reactor cooling systems, for example the interruption of electricity if the emergency generators were hit or were missing fuel, or a leak of radioactive clouds from nuclear waste basins, would represent dramatic alarms. But the most serious risk remains human error. Before the Russian attack last February, there were 11,000 Ukrainians working on the plant. I have less than 9,000 left. Everyone is subject to strong psychological pressures, which do not help their work>, they add. The reassurances of scientists therefore become less 'reassuring'. And the alarm raised repeatedly in a loud voice between July and August by the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, who spoke of 'the madness and suicide of civilization in the heart of Europe' remains valid. Even the head of the IAEA commission, Rafael Grossi, who visited the plant three weeks ago after two months of grueling negotiations, continues to repeat that 'we are playing with fire'. Back in Vienna, he reiterated: 'Something truly catastrophic could happen in Zaporizhzhia.'

THE RUSSIAN MEANS - Its two commissioners who remained on the spot confirm that the presence of Russian military vehicles in the basement and Ukrainian attempts to advance make the situation highly unstable. Moscow clearly rejects the UN proposal, supported by Kiev, to 'demilitarize' the area around it. The compromise would be to limit oneself to the power plant alone. Putin refuses. The Enorgatom accuses the Russians of wanting to cut connections to the Ukrainian grid to connect the power plant only to the occupied areas and to Crimea. It seems that the 20 emergency generators have fuel reserves for 10 days, they need 200 tons of diesel every 24 hours, but transport is becoming more and more complicated due to the fighting.