EDITORIAL | Using a nuclear power plant as a “nuclear shield” is a recipe for nuclear disaster

Russia is occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as a military base to attack Ukraine. This is a scandalous act because the power station is subject to a serious radioactive accident. The immediate evacuation of Russian troops must be demanded.

As fighting intensified from August 5, rockets were fired at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, landing around the spent fuel storage facility and damaging detectors monitoring radiation. A reactor was also forced to shut down.

If spent fuel and reactors were to be damaged, it would affect many countries. Has Russia learned nothing from its Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine during the former Soviet era?

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant houses six nuclear reactors. It is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, producing 20% ​​of Ukraine’s total electricity.

Russian troops, who began their invasion of Ukraine at the end of February this year, have occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant since March 4, with a fire that broke out on the plant’s premises when they broke in.

Members of the State Emergency Service attend nuclear disaster response drills amid the bombardment of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues. August 17, 2022. REUTERS/Dmytro Smolienko

Echoes of the military occupation of Chernobyl

The Russian military also occupied the disused Chernobyl nuclear power plant for a time, but then withdrew. At the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Russian troops reportedly brought many weapons with them to the premises and used them as a base for staging attacks.

This cunning and outrageous move uses the nuclear power plant as a “nuclear shield” against the Ukrainian military’s counterattack, even as Russia launches rockets and fires other weapons at them from the plant.

The Russian side claimed that the Ukrainian army bombed the power plant, but is this really the case? One thing is clear: the bombings would not have taken place without the occupation of the factory by the Russian army.

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, has expressed serious concern over the risk of nuclear disaster, calling for access to the facility in his comments to the Security Council of the UN.

The ignorance of the Russian soldiers adds to the danger. According to reports, they dug radioactive soil to build trenches and were exposed to radiation during their occupation of Chernobyl.

Violation of international agreements

Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, attacked by Russian troops on March 4 (Reuters from a YouTube capture of a camera at the same nuclear power plant)

Article 56 of the Geneva Convention on Armed Conflict prohibits attacks on nuclear power plants. The Russian army, which entered the factory with tanks, has been violating the treaty since March 4.

The risks of a nuclear disaster are increasing by the minute as the Russian army gathers its forces towards southern Ukraine, where the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located.

Only Russian President Vladimir Putin can avert a nuclear catastrophe.

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(Read this editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: editorial board, The Sankei Shimbun

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