From Jamie Peipon: Here are some Saturday night thoughts on the nuclear power plant that is currently under Russian occupation in Ukraine. The Zaporizhzhia NPP is the largest in Europe. You can see a picture of the sprawling facility above. In the second (more blurry) picture below you can see that there are Russian military vehicles parked inside the facility which are as close as 130 meters to a nuclear reactor.
Before continuing… let me remind you that I am not a nuclear physicist. If I turn a light switch on and some of the electricity I’ve sent to a light bult was generated in a nuclear plant, that could fairly be described as the high point of my expertise in nuclear power. Don’t ask me for nitty gritty, scientific details about how it works. I also lived in a city (Kyiv) that was only about 60 miles from history’s most infamous nuclear power plant: Chernobyl. I have, however, made an effort to read experts in this field as widely as possible, particularly over the past six months. Now… with all those disclaimers out of the way…
Having military personnel and vehicles stationed inside and around this facility is foolish and does up the level of danger to the point that it sure would seem like an organization (shall we say… Amnesty International for example?) would be passionate about exposing something like this. In addition, there is an extremely easy, three-word solution to resolving the tension: “Russia goes home.”
However, I also think that the media just loves any story they can generate with “nuclear” in the headline. These nuclear reactors are built to withstand a direct hit from a civilian airliner. Western intelligence has stated that “direct fire is not our concern.” The more level-headed experts that I have read indicate that the bigger danger has to do with fuel rods that are decaying and being cooled on the premises rather than with the reactors themselves. Chernobyl’s reactor is what blew up. That type of disaster seems to be unlikely. There is a lot of “know-how” required to intentionally make that happen. The people who are crazy enough to try something terrible probably don’t have the know-how required. Conversely, the people with the know-how to do something terrible are not crazy enough to actually try it. The danger is not from a stray shell or even an intentional shot from a tank. Something far more intentional would be required, like drilling through the concrete directly into a reactor. That’s not a job that they’re likely to find a lot of volunteers for.
There are other reasons as well:
- This power plant provides electricity to much of the Russian-occupied area in Ukraine. Taking it out will cause blackouts in territory they currently control.
- Computer models show that, in the event of a major incident, the most significant radiation will move east where Russian soldiers are based. There would be radiation that would also end up in Europe as well, which:
- Several European leaders have said that it would trigger article 5 of NATO’s treaty which means it would be considered an armed attack on the alliance.
For all of those reasons, I am not convinced that the threat is anywhere near as significant as some news sources make it out to be.
In other news, western intelligence is also reporting that Russia is starting to “run out of ammunition.” They also cite a “large range of evidence” that points to significant problems, even for bringing weapons out of deep storage as they’ve been doing in recent months. There have also been reports from Russian soldiers that talk about how poorly outfitted they are. In some cases, they are buying gear from military surplus stores that acquired it from superior officers or others along the supply chain who have been selling it off to make a few bucks. Battalions are also being combined to give them the feeling of being at full strength. Much of this goes back to Ukrainian attacks on facilities well behind the front lines. Western intelligence is reporting that they don’t see those attacks being reduced any time soon and that they have happened thanks to a “combination of incredibly brave people and new capabilities.”
“Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.”