The destruction of the Nova Kokhova dam by the Russians has had many consequences. One of them is the potential for the cooling systems at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station some 100 miles upstream on the Dnipro river to be affected.
We were reassured to hear from IAEA inspectors, therefore, that there is sufficient water in the power station’s own water lagoons for it to continue operating safely for some time, as long as water levels are not allowed to fall any further.
However, we should still be alive to the possibilities that things might go awry. One is that there is an accident or act of nature might lead to an explosion and/or radiation release, and the other is that the Russians might blow the plant up.
The first, that of an act of nature, seems unlikely; the IAEA has stated that although the situation is “serious” there is, as stated previously, sufficient cooling water available locally.
The second, that the Russians might blow up the plant deliberately, is much harder to gauge. Any such action would bring immediate international condemnation, and for good reason. Those living near the plant would be at serious risk of radiation sickness and possible death.
The real problem, though, is that the results of the destruction of the nuclear plant would be unpredictable. The radiation plume which would result can’t be seen, and its presence only determined by the appropriate instrumentation.
Its spread would also be dependent on the weather, or more specifically the wind direction. In central Ukraine the prevailing wind tends to be from east to west and the radiation would be likely to be carried towards Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Low Countries, and even as far as the UK.
All of these countries are members of NATO. If any of them were affected by radiation then Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the cornerstone of NATO, would be applicable. Article 5 is usually expressed in terms of “an attack on one will be regarded as an attack on all”.If it were to happen it would be the end game for Putin and Russia. The full might of NATO would crush them.
So I don’t think there’s a major risk of nuclear explosion or escape from the Zaporizhzhia power plant, but we need to keep an eye on it. With the Chernobyl disaster within living memory Ukraine, and the rest of the world, will be anxious that such an event should never happen again.
Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk
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