Amsterdam, Netherlands – The extent of the nuclear threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is unprecedented, new Greenpeace International mapping and technical analysis shows.

Created with data from the Institute for the Study of War and the Centre for Information Resilience among others, and displaying the proximity of Russian troops and military hardware to each of Ukraine’s 15 commercial nuclear reactors over time, the interactive map provides a chilling interactive visualisation of the potential for nuclear catastrophe at regular intervals since the bloody invasion began on February 24.[1] 

Meanwhile, the new analysis of Yuzhnoukrainsk (South Ukraine) nuclear power plant, which generates on average 10% of Ukraine’s electricity, shows that existing risks of a severe incident at these nuclear plants have exponentially increased as a consequence of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.[2]

Co-author of the new analysis and Greenpeace East Asia senior nuclear specialist Shaun Burnie said:

“An attack and seizure of the Yuzhnoukrainsk reactors, as with the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in early March, would give the Russian military control of the electricity supply of southern Ukraine and major leverage over the Ukrainian government. In trying to seize the reactors, the Russian military exponentially increases the risks of a severe accident: damage to the external electricity grid supply and loss of power to an operating nuclear reactor site, either as a result of a direct attack or elsewhere in the region, has the potential to lead to a major release of radioactivity into the environment.”

The three reactors at Yuzhnoukrainsk, like those at Zaporizhzhia, rely heavily on the electrical grid for operating cooling systems; on the availability of nuclear technicians and personnel, and access to heavy equipment and logistics in the event of an emergency. Both Yuzhnoukrainsk and Zaporizhzhia plants were at risk of a severe accident before the war against Ukraine due to decades-old Soviet design and inadequate application of post-Fukushima safety measures.

The risks of major war are not built into the design of commercial nuclear power plants. Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) advised governments in 2021 to explicitly exclude the possibility of direct heavy armed attack on nuclear reactors from risk assessments. In reality, the scenarios for what could happen are far worse than the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe of 2011 and more comparable to the 1986 Chornobyl disaster.

Mr Burnie continued:

“For decades, the IAEA and national nuclear regulators have ignored the risks and the possible consequences laid out here, but today, it is the Russian military, under orders from Putin, and supported by ROSATOM, that is the immediate threat to these nuclear plants. And the only solution is the immediate end to this war.”[3]  

This is the second Greenpeace International briefing on the potential for disaster at a nuclear power plant during the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. The first, published on 2 March, focused on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.[4] Two days later, Russian troops took control of the site in an assault that involved the firing of an unknown quantity of heavy weaponry, including rocket propelled grenades, artillery and/or or tank shells. Nuclear officials from Russia’s state nuclear energy agency ROSATOM have been deployed to the site to claim ownership.[5] 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

[1] Map link https://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaign/russian-military-threat-ukraine-nuclear-reactors-facilities/

The Institute for the Study of War https://www.understandingwar.org

The Centre for Information Resilience https://www.info-res.org 

[2] “The vulnerability of nuclear plants during military conflict Yuzhnoukrainsk (South Ukraine) Nuclear Power Plant Safety and security risks https://www.greenpeace.org/international/nuclear-power-plants-in-military-conflict-yuzhnoukrainsk-south-ukraine-briefing/ 

[3]  According to Ukraine’s Energoatom, ROSATOM is claiming ownership of the Zaporizhzhia reactors http://reform.energy/news/rosatom-bere-uchast-u-reyderstvi-zaes-glava-energoatoma-19989

[4] The vulnerability of nuclear plants during military conflict Lessons from Fukushima Daiichi Focus on Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine https://www.greenpeace.org/international/nuclear-power-plant-vulnerability-during-military-conflict-ukraine-technical-briefing/

[5] SNRIU, “Zaporizhzhia NPP status update as of 12 March 2022”, see https://snriu.gov.ua/en/news/zaporizhzhia-npp-status-update-12-march-2022

Contacts: 

Shaun Burnie, [email protected]

Jan Vande Putte, [email protected]  

Greenpeace International Press Desk: [email protected], +31 (0) 20 718 2470 available 24 hours)

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