Dmytro Kumenyuk. “Putin and his military use Zaporizhia plant as nuclear shield in war against Ukraine”

Escalating tensions in Ukraine and around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the largest on the European continent, have once again raised warnings in the international community about the risk of war in a country with a large nuclear infrastructure. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks of a “suicide mission”. On the ground, Ukrainian technicians assessing the security of the network did not hide their concern. In a phone call with oi from the offices of the Ukrainian State Center for Nuclear and Radiological Protection, Dmytro Gumeniuk, a nuclear engineer in charge of SSTC NRS’s analytical department, insists it is “nuclear terrorism” and blames the International Atomic Energy Agency. , admitted this weekend that they are playing with fire in Zaporizhia, which has been dormant in recent months.

Was it the most important strike since the start of the war?

Yes, I believe this is the most critical situation in terms of nuclear security since the beginning of the war.

Can you describe what happened at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in the last few days?

As is well known, since March 4, the Russian military has occupied the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. For a while they stood there doing nothing. About two weeks ago, we received information that they started placing mines and explosives around the perimeter of the plant and last week they brought war machines into the premises near the turbine buildings of Unit 1. This building is located near this power plant. unit.

Are they shooting within the confines of the plant?

Not in the control area of ​​the reactors, but in nearby buildings, are the steam pipes needed to cool the reactor and connect the power to the grid. In the event of an explosion, these pipes could be damaged and the reactor coolant could be lost, which could reach the nuclear fuel and lead to the release of radioactive contaminants into the environment. Last Friday, the Russian army reached the plant, firing started from several areas and a part of the power grid was damaged. The town of Enerhodar, a satellite town of the power plant, was without electricity and water for several hours and buildings in the town were attacked. On Sunday, a Russian official said the plant was built by the Russians, so the Russians would be in Zaporizhzhya and would shoot if the Ukrainians tried to evacuate the territory. So we have a very delicate situation and I am very concerned. A nuclear power plant is not a place for games and fights. Now it is not clear to me how the Russians are going to prolong this situation, and I also cannot understand how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not support the Ukrainian side in ensuring the safety of these facilities.

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At the start of the war, the Ukrainian regulator asked for guarantees that independent technical teams could remain at the plants. Is it not protected?

Several plant workers tried to escape Enerhoder to safety. According to the reports I have, about 30% of the workers have left this area and it is problematic to have enough manpower to guarantee the safe operation of the plant.

Are there signs of nuclear contamination?

We don’t see it now. The working units and the units under maintenance are stable, and we see no signs of leakage of radioactive material, so we have no signs of contamination, but it is possible if these stupid games of Putin’s troops continue on the periphery. In the plant. There have been at least three shooting incidents against installations at the Zaporizhia power station in the past week. If they continue to do so, they can cause damage to critical infrastructure in buildings or networks, leading to a radiological accident.

If there is an accident, how big will the damage be? What projections have you worked on?

This is a very difficult question because it depends on the number of damaged units. The Zaporizhia plant has six units and a spent fuel storage unit. For example, damage to one unit can lead to consequences similar to the Fukushima or Chernobyl accident. If all six units are damaged, we have six accidents like six Fukushimas or Chernobyl. In a worst-case scenario, a large part of Europe could be affected, in my opinion.

In Romania, thousands of kilometers from the plant, people are advised to buy iodine tablets. Is it necessary?

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It depends on the development of the situation. In my opinion it is not necessary at this stage. But we bought iodine tablets for all SSTC NRS employees and their families.

The Russians are accusing Ukraine of attacking these plants. Do you have information about the activities of the militants?

I have no information about it. For our company, the biggest concern is what is currently there. My colleagues are in the crisis center, which is monitoring the whole situation and predicting what we are trying to do, which becomes very difficult when you have very different problems, it depends on the weather conditions. The hope now is that in the worst case scenario, if the entire plant is damaged, we will have a serious situation, considering all the combat operations around.

It has been warning from the beginning of the nuclear threat of this war. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) again expressed concern after the incidents at Saporigia. From there, does it appear that adequate measures have been taken to prevent this type of accident?

This is a good question. In my opinion, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is very inactive. I think they should order the withdrawal of Russia from the plant. They don’t because there are many Russians working at the IAEA. At the same time, I think it is very difficult to talk with the Russian troops in Zaporizhia, so they cannot be ordered to vacate the premises. Putin and his military are using the Zaporizhia plant as a nuclear shield in their war against Ukraine. It is a form of nuclear terrorism and we are victims.

Are there casualties among workers working at these and other centers?

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Many colleagues continued to work, while others tried to escape. Those present say that the situation has worsened due to psychological pressure on the staff and that it has subsided. On Fridays and Saturdays they have no electricity, no water, and these are not ideal working conditions.

This alone increases the risk of an accident or error.


What solutions do you see?

The best solution would be for the Russian military to evacuate the plant. Another solution that I think would be good is for Putin to order the military to allow Ukrainian engineers to safely operate the plant, but that’s too unstable and vague. I can’t predict what will happen next.

They have been at war for over five months. Many Ukrainians fled, many died and many stayed, like Dmytro, and in addition to their work, they were volunteers. What is the mood now?

As you say, many have run away, and many of us are working very hard for our army and for our victory. I cannot explain what I feel, I believe in our army and our victory. If we lose, not only Ukraine, but the whole of Europe and the whole world will lose this war. Ukraine is not Mr. Putin. Poland, Lithuania and other countries will follow. Ending this war in Ukraine is essential. Many went back to Ukraine to fight and we are trying our best to win.

Do you miss any support in particular from your volunteer work with communities in the Kyiv area?

At present the situation in my region is very calm. Basic needs of people who have lost their homes. In other areas, such as Kharkiv or Mykolayiv, which are still under daily attack, what they really need is protection from Russia, maybe some medicine. I don’t know much about the specific requirements on the war front, but what we need now is victory and for that we need international support with arms.

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