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 »
HIGHLIGHT ISSUES FACING KIDS
FLOTUS to Speak at UN Luncheon
20 hours ago
THE LATEST
PRESSES CASE FOR REFORMS
Trump Meets with UN Leaders
1 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump on Tuesday night met with UN Secretary Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. In both cases, as per releases from the White House, Trump pressed them on the need to reform the UN bureaucracy.

AT U.N. TRUMP CALLS NUCLEAR DEAL AN “EMBARRASSMENT”
New Iran Policy Coming Next Month?
1 days ago
THE LATEST
“MASSIVE SOURCE OF EMBARRASSMENT”
Trump Calls Out U.N. Members for Human Rights Violations
1 days ago
THE LATEST
LEVELS AN IMPLICIT THREAT AT NORTH KOREA
Trump Calls Kim “Rocket Man” at U.N.
1 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

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