Nuclear Security in the World and in the Context of the Russian war in Ukraine

For today, nuclear energy is one the most clean source of energy. Unlike renewable sources derived from water, solar and wind energy, the use of atom allows to fill the commercial potential of the state and thus achieve economic growth and development with minimal damage to the environment. Also, the use of nuclear energy allows countries that do not have sufficient resources of oil, gas and coal to limit imports of these energy resources and thus reduce dependence on exporting states. It is worth mentioning that power plants of any type must not only be economically efficient, but also operate safelly. Despite the advantages of using nuclear power in the energy balance of the state, there are a number of risks that can lead to irreversible consequences. The tragedies of Chernobyl and Fukushima in Japan are clear examples of such failures.

Due to technological development, the main indicators determining the viability of the nuclear energy production have been significantly improved in recent times. Therefore, there is a big opportunity for the world’s nuclear power industry to take a leading place in the modern energy balance. However, in order to achieve the status of a safe nuclear industry, it is necessary to improve the existing nuclear power plants, both in terms of actual technical safety in operating facilities and in terms of public attitudes toward nuclear power in general.

Even with the most modern safety systems, accidents at any of the nuclear facilities are possible. These accidents can happen due to human mistakes or due to component failures, but one way or another, they inevitably affect all nuclear utilities around the world and undermine confidence in the use of nuclear power. To prevent such accidents, a wide exchange of experience in spreading the principles of safety culture is needed and new safety knowledge must be studied and accumulated. At the same time it is necessary to work on creating a positive public attitude towards nuclear power. This can be achieved through publications in the media, direct communication with the general public, and rapprochement with educational institutions, which will enable the future development of nuclear technology. It is true though that almost all nuclear power plants in the world have a safety level that meets modern safety standards and regulations and is sufficient to ensure their operation.

All in all, nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities are objects of peaceful use of nuclear energy and are not intended for military operations and should not be subjects of military attacks. In 2022, the Russian armed forces started a full-scale war in Ukraine. By terrorist actions related to the shelling and seizuring of nuclear facilities at the Chornobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants, the Russian Federation violated all international principles of nuclear safety. Russians do not conceal their plans and are openly blackmailing the whole world, declaring mining of Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and readiness to blow it up. Thus, in his statement, Major General Valeriy Vasilyev, Chief of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Troops of the Russian Armed Forces, said that: “There will be either Russian land or scorched desert. We have mined all the important facilities of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. And we don’t hide it from the enemy. We have warned them. The enemy knows that the plant will be either Russian or no one’s. We are ready for the consequences of this step. And if there will be the toughest order – we must execute it with honor.” This situation indicates a high level of probability of a nuclear and radiation catastrophe, the consequences of which will damage not only Ukraine but also other European countries.

On 06 September 2022, the International Atomic Energy Agency provided a 52-page report on the results of the inspectors’ mission to Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which confirmed violations of the basic principles of nuclear safety and provided recommendations for improving the situation. The International Atomic Energy Agency limited itself only to “concerned appeals to the international community” and did not point to the guilt of Russian Federation. Unfortunately, “condemned” and “expressing concern” do not work on the aggressor. Only tough actions can change the situation and therefore safe the world from nuclear catastrophe. Understanding the full responsibility and consequences of the reckless attack on nuclear facilities of Ukraine, as well as complete disregard of the principles of peace, security and unity by the Russian Federation, military actions of the Russian Federation against nuclear facilities of Ukraine should be recognized as acts of nuclear terrorism. Russia should have limited access to the latest nuclear technologies and sanctions need to cower Russian nuclear industry. Russian Federation should be completely cut off from the international cooperation in the nuclear sphere.

As or today, it is difficult to make predictions about the development of the nuclear power industry in Ukraine. Reliable forecasts are possible only for the time of development, while in Ukraine the events are more like the process of complete curtailment of scientific and technical programs. The development of the industry will largely depend on how much individuals, society in whole and the government of the country care about the future of their country. The conclusion to be drawn from the above is that nuclear power requires a scientifically substantiated approach to safety issues, close government cooperation and organization with strict security principles. The nuclear power industry requires demonstration of a new, higher level of safety that should be accepted by the society.

Now, in Ukraine and in other countries there are different opinions on nuclear power, but most people know and understand that nuclear power plants are the most environmentally clean producers of electric power, and that it is impossible to imagine the development and moreover the prosperity of human society without nuclear power plants. However, the new challenges associated with Russian aggression in Ukraine, manifestations of nuclear threats and attacks near Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Chornobyl, nuclear research facility in Kharkiv require experts to review and change the basic provisions of physical protection of nuclear facilities. It is necessary to analyze the experience of the war in Ukraine, make tough conclusions on the manifestation of nuclear threats during war time, develop guidelines and recommendations on operation of nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities during martial law.  

Anatoliy Nosovskiy,
Red. & add.Taisiia Kryvoshei