Enough Isn’t Enough
It seems the Russians can’t leave Ukrainians well enough alone.
The New York Times reported this week, the Russian forces resumed bombing the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine. The nuclear facility is the largest of its kind in Europe and one of the ten largest in the world.
The plant is located outside the city of Enerhodar, part of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, in Russian-controlled southeastern Ukraine. As a reminder, “Oblasts” are what Ukrainians call their provinces, which are roughly analogous to states.
The most recent attacks follow shelling on Saturday that, according to Financial Times (FT), “damaged radiation sensors after striking close to a storage facility for spent fuel at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.” At that time, the owner/operator of the plant, Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom put out a statement on the social media platform Telegram saying, “The situation is getting worse because there are radiation sources very close by. As a result, several radiation sensors were damaged.”
Fortunately, no radiation leaks were detected.
More of the Blame Game
In a somewhat troubling recent trend, both sides are blaming each other for shelling the massive power plant. Two weeks ago, each side blamed the other for an attack on a Russian POW camp housing 193 people. Fifty-three Ukrainian prisoners of war taken from the steelworks in Mariupol were killed in the attacks.
Last Sunday, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Russian occupying forces claiming the Zaporizhzhia reactor was shelled by Ukrainians. They followed on and said an area where spent nuclear fuel was kept was impacted. Shortly after the Russian accusation, Energoatom claimed publicly that it was Russian rockets that hit the plant.
Why would the Russians make such claims about the Ukrainians trying to destroy their own infrastructure? To make the fog of war denser, as if things aren’t confusing enough. The Russians have nothing to lose by accusing their enemy of the attack. There remain pockets of Russian sympathizers in portions of Ukraine, especially to the east and near the Russian border. The statements are likely intended to have the “See, I told you so” effect by making the Ukrainians look like the bad guys. It’s a tool of psychological warfare.
You may ask, “Do you personally know without a shadow of a doubt who keeps shooting rockets at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant?” My answer would be, “No, I’m not there. Of course, I don’t.” I would turn around and ask why the Ukrainians, who badly want their country back, would want to destroy one of their chief sources of power while killing scores of their citizens and polluting the environment for years to come.
I believe in a variation of Occam’s razor whereby the most likely and logical cause of an event is the most probable one.
Common sense indicates that shooting high explosives at a nuclear power plant could potentially be catastrophic. One round lands in the wrong place, and the entire region has a serious problem on its hands. This is why the UN and other independent experts so badly want to come and evaluate the condition of the plant. FT quotes the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, as saying that he was “extremely concerned by the shelling . . . which underlines the genuine risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond”.
In his own words:
I’ve told #UNSC today that the situation at #Zaporizhzya NPP was alarming. Military actions jeopardizing nuclear safety and security must stop immediately. An @iaeaorg mission would allow us to carry out needed technical activities and provide a stabilizing influence.
— Rafael MarianoGrossi (@rafaelmgrossi) August 11, 2022
Courtesy of Twitter and @rafaelmgrossi. #UNSC is the United Nations Security Council
Under Russian Control
According to The New York Times, the Russians seized control of the nuclear facility shortly after their Feb. 24 invasion. However, they have kept the Ukrainian plant operators there on-site to run things. The Ukrainians are accusing the Russians of using the facility as a sort of shield and base of military operations because they know Ukrainian forces will not fire on it. Yet another reason to question the Russian claim that it was their enemy attacking the facility. Then again, why would they (the Russians) attack it if they have personnel stationed there and are using it as a base of operations? This is a complicated war, and there are no easy answers.
One Final Word
The UN News website reported Mr. Rossi as stating that the first look by IAEA experts found no immediate danger regarding nuclear safety from military actions taken on the Zaporizhzhia facility. However, he was quick to remind us, “this could change at any moment.”