Ukraine Fighting Could Lead to Reactor Meltdown: U.S. Analyst

Armed men wearing military fatigues on Wednesday gather near armored vehicles as they guard a regional state building seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk. A former U.S. government analyst said a broader Russian invasion of Ukraine could disrupt operations at nuclear reactors.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
Add to Briefcase
Rachel Oswald
April 16, 2014, 10:06 a.m.

A former U.S. gov­ern­ment policy ana­lyst is warn­ing a mil­it­ary con­flict in Ukraine could af­fect the elec­tric grid and en­danger the na­tion’s nuc­le­ar re­act­ors.

Ukraine op­er­ates 15 atom­ic en­ergy re­act­ors at four dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions. Those nuc­le­ar sites rely on out­side elec­tri­city to main­tain their cool­ing pumps, which pre­vent a re­act­or melt­down from oc­cur­ring.

In the event that Rus­sia at­tacks Ukraine, “fight­ing could dis­rupt” the nearby power plants or elec­tric­al grids that send elec­tri­city to the re­act­ors, wrote Ben­nett Ram­berg in a com­ment­ary ap­pear­ing in the Daily Star news­pa­per on Wed­nes­day.

Without elec­tri­city to op­er­ate the re­act­ors’ cool­ing sys­tems, there is a risk of nuc­le­ar melt­down oc­cur­ring, as was the case in the 2011 Fukushi­ma Daii­chi power plant crisis in Ja­pan.

Nuc­le­ar power sites main­tain emer­gency backup elec­tri­city gen­er­at­ors. However, they rely on dies­el fuel to op­er­ate, which is typ­ic­ally trucked in from out­side.

Fight­ing between Ukrain­i­an and Rus­si­an-backed forces could pre­vent dies­el-fuel ship­ments from reach­ing the gen­er­at­ors, which would shorten the amount of time they could provide aux­il­i­ary power to the re­act­or cool­ing pumps, said Ram­berg, who served at the State De­part­ment dur­ing the George H.W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

There is also the chance that re­act­or per­son­nel might flee their sta­tions if armed con­flict flares close to the sites, he poin­ted out. Ad­di­tion­ally, “com­batants could in­vade nuc­le­ar plants and threaten sab­ot­age by re­leas­ing ra­dio­act­ive ele­ments to in­tim­id­ate op­pon­ents,” Ram­berg said.

In any of these scen­ari­os, “ser­i­ous ra­di­olo­gic­al con­tam­in­a­tion” could oc­cur that might even dwarf the harm caused at Fukushi­ma and Chernobyl, Ram­berg con­ten­ded.

“War­time con­di­tions would pre­vent emer­gency crews from get­ting to an af­fected plant to con­tain ra­di­olo­gic­al re­leases” and “ci­vil­ians at­tempt­ing to es­cape ra­dio­act­ive con­tam­in­a­tion would not know what to do” in the event of an in­ter­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment ser­vices, he said.

Mo­scow last month an­nexed Ukraine’s Crimean Pen­in­sula and is widely sus­pec­ted to be be­hind pro-Rus­si­an mil­it­ant activ­ity else­where in the east­ern part of the coun­try.

Ram­berg re­com­men­ded that per­son­nel at Ukrain­i­an nuc­le­ar sites build up sup­plies of dies­el fuel and per­form ex­tra checks on their backup gen­er­at­ors to con­firm they are in good work­ing or­der.

What We're Following See More »
DOCUMENTS OBTAINED BY U.S. INTEL
Putin-Linked Think Tank Developed Plan to Influence U.S. Election
3 days ago
THE LATEST

A Russian government think tank run by Putin loyalists "developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system." Two confidential documents from the Putin-backed Institute for Strategic Studies, obtained by U.S. intelligence, provide "the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election."

Source:
HELPED WIN FISA APPROVAL
FBI Relied on Dossier Allegations to Monitor Page
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification" to monitor Carter Page, who was then a defense adviser to the Trump campaign. "The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks."

Source:
AIR FORCE SCRAMBLES JETS IN RESPONSE
Russian Bombers Fly Near Alaska
4 days ago
WHY WE CARE
A MESSAGE TO RUSSIA?
Pentagon Deploying F-35s to Europe
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"The Air Force is set to deploy its high-tech, fifth-generation F-35A fighter jets to Europe this weekend as part of an effort to assure U.S. allies there who are worried about Russian aggression." The new, state-of-the-art fighters will train with European air units. "The Pentagon noted that the deployment had been long planned, meaning it was not a reaction to recent increasing tensions between the United States and Russia," although a statement noted the move is part of the "European Reassurance Initiative," which began three years ago when Russia annexed Crimea.

Source:
NOT ON SCHEDULE
Tillerson Meets Putin
1 weeks ago
BREAKING
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login