Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is extremely distressing and an unjustified act of aggression. NIRS expresses our solidarity and support for the Ukrainian people, their safety and well-being, and their right to sovereignty and self-determination.
The extraordinary danger of Russia’s invasion has already been underscored by its assault on Ukrainian forces at the Chornobyl nuclear disaster site. Any combat and use of explosives there could lead to a dramatic escalation of danger. The 1000 square-mile exclusion zone surrounding the former nuclear reactor site is still highly contaminated with radioactive material. The destroyed unit 4 reactor was re-enclosed just 6 years ago with a new containment dome, needed to protect against a catastrophic release of radioactive material from the still-exposed remains of the molten nuclear core.
If a military strike breaches the containment and the core remains are damaged, large amounts of radiation could be released to the surrounding region. There are also large amounts of intensely radioactive nuclear fuel on-site, some in vulnerable pools of water, and some in dry canisters. If those facilities are damaged by explosions or being struck by military ordinance, catastrophically large releases of radioactivity could ensue, affecting large areas comparable to or larger than the original Chornobyl disaster. Similar dangers exist at Ukraine’s other four nuclear power plant sites, with a total of 15 reactors and 1,000’s of tons of irradiated nuclear fuel.
It is essential that Russia and the international community do everything possible to bring military action to a halt, and ensure the protection of all of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and energy and water infrastructure. At the same time, the international community must prepare to assist in disaster response in the case of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine. The logistics of such a response could be nearly impossible in the midst of this invasion.