Ukraine reacted strongly to Russia’s missile attack on the Southern Ukrainian nuclear power plant in the Mykolayiv region – on the night of September 19, a Russian missile landed 300 meters from the operating nuclear reactors. But what is Russia’s purpose when, for the first time, it overtly strikes a missile at a nuclear plant deep in the territory of Ukraine? RFE/RL spoke to nuclear experts to learn about Moscow’s motivations.
The national nuclear power company “Energoatom” reported that the South Ukrainian NPP. According to the report, the “powerful explosion” occurred just 300 meters from the reactors, the NPP buildings were damaged by the shock wave, more than 100 windows were broken.
As a result of the impact, one of the hydraulic units of HPP Oleksandrivskaya, which is part of the South Ukraine power complex, was shut down. In addition, three high voltage lines were closed.
Oleksandr Pelyuk, a representative of the NPP of Southern Ukraine (PAES), told Radio Liberty that the plant is operating normally. There are no casualties among PANPP personnel.
In fact, the risk of impact lies in the fact that the Southern Ukraine Energy Complex is a very large complex of energy facilities, not just the PANPP itself.
There is a nuclear hazard from a cruise missile hitting the reactor thermal envelope – because the reactor envelope is not designed for a cruise missile that carries a lot of explosives
“There is a danger – a nuclear danger – from a cruise missile falling into the thermal envelope of the reactor – because the reactor envelope is not designed for a cruise missile carrying a lot of explosives, but can only withstand the fall of a light aircraft,” explains an independent nuclear expert in an interview with the energy industry Radio Svoboda Olga Kosarna.
He says that in addition to the three power units of the NPP, there are also the Tashlytsk hydroelectric station and the Oleksandrivska hydroelectric station, which form a single complex. Accordingly, there are dams and there is a reservoir.
“So there is a risk of a missile hitting the dam, and then what happens to the cooling ponds for the three power units of the nuclear plant? If the dam is hit and there is a water leak, the water level in the cooling ponds will drop and there will be nothing to cool the reactors, Kosharna says. – Correspondingly, if the high-voltage lines supplying current from the PANPR to the network are damaged, then the power units will be stopped by emergency protection systems. So the risk is not just nuclear, and the risks are growing.”
The Southern Ukraine nuclear power plant is located about 200 kilometers from the front line in the south, which currently runs through the Kherson region.
The Russian missile could hit 300 meters left or right. And the accuracy of Russian missiles ranges from a hundred meters to half a kilometer
But Russia “fired,” Kosharna suggests, with a cruise missile somewhere from the Black Sea or Caspian region.
“The Russians don’t have high-precision weapons – that’s the most terrible thing. This is not HIMARS – the Russian missile could have gone 300 meters left or right. And the accuracy of Russian missiles ranges from a hundred meters to half a kilometer, depending on the modification of the missile,” said the liquidator of Chernobyl, the author of several books about Chernobyl, in an interview with Radio Svoboda. Serhii Mirnyi.
“And this is just complete madness! And this direct bombing of the nuclear power plant with missiles is a whistle blow for the entire world community. Now it is a radically different stage. In the first months of the war, rockets flew over the nuclear plant – and that is dangerous. And here they have just looted the NPP itself,” Myrni indignantly.
It must be said that nuclear facilities have been at risk since the first days of the great Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to Russia’s priority plans, the capture and occupation of both the Zaporizhia and Southern Ukraine stations were to take place simultaneously
First there were battles and the seizure of the Chernobyl station – the site of the largest man-made disaster in the history of mankind. Although the station is not working, there is a sarcophagus above the destroyed fourth reactor, there is a nuclear storage, there are other objects. Russian troops withdrew from Chernobyl as part of a general retreat from the Kiev and Chernihiv regions at the end of March.
Then there were missile flights over the Southern Ukraine NPP and the Rivne NPP in April, which coincided with the anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.
Then the unprecedented occupation and episodic shelling of the Zaporizhzhya NPP or the shelling of the Dnipropetrovsk region from the territory of the ZNPP – the largest in Europe.
And now there is a direct covert missile strike next to the nuclear reactors of the Southern Ukrainian NPP.
The South Ukraine NPP has three VVER-type reactors with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts each. The first PAES reactor was built in 1982, the second in 1985 and the third in 1989. In April this year, in the context of Russian aggression, the station was renamed from “Yuzhno-Ukrainskaya” to “Pivdenno-Ukrainskaya”.
“According to the priority plans of the Russian Federation, the seizure and occupation of both the Zaporizhia and Southern Ukraine stations were to be carried out simultaneously. There is a document in Russian publications that my nuclear colleagues found, and the whole logic is described there. But it didn’t work, because the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed the Russian military convoy already in Voznesensk (in southern Ukraine),” says Olga Kosharna.
“For cruise missiles, all points in Ukraine are available. In general, nuclear power plants should have anti-aircraft means, but still there can be no shooting down of 100-point cruise missiles in any case,” adds Kosharna.
The president of Ukraine also reacted to the incident Volodymyr Zelenskyi.
“The occupiers wanted to fire again, but they forgot what a nuclear power plant is. Russia endangers the whole world. We must stop it before it is too late,” Zelensky wrote in his cable on September 19.
RFE/RL’s interlocutors point to blackmail as one of the possible motives for Russia’s missile attack on the territory of the southern Ukrainian nuclear power plant.
Ukraine is being blackmailed here as well, as an energy mess is created and there is uncertainty that Ukrainians will be able to survive the difficult winter. And the partial disconnection of the Zaporizhzhya NPP, as well as the possible disconnection of the Southern Ukrainian NPP from the grid, is very serious, they say.
“This attack on the nuclear power plant in Southern Ukraine is so demonstrative, because if the high voltage lines were destroyed, then there would be a deficit in the Ukrainian energy system. Therefore, Russia pursues another goal with such actions – to sow chaos,” explains Olga Kosharna.
Video of Russian missile hitting southern Ukraine nuclear power plant:
A strike on energy facilities could be “retaliation” from Russia in Ukraine for the successes of the Armed Forces on the fronts, experts believe. When the Kharkiv region was liberated in early September, there was a Russian attack on two TPPs, and this led to blackouts in almost five regions of Ukraine. Currently, they are talking about the success of the Armed Forces in the Kherson region and Russia striking the Southern Ukraine nuclear power plant in the south…
Russia endangers the whole world. We have to stop her before it’s too late
According to Kosharnaya, Russia is also trying to blackmail the international community – particularly the IAEA, which is scheduled to hold a general conference from September 26 to 30 – a top body that meets once a year. “And here is such an ostentatious act – conducting hostilities near dams and nuclear power plants.”
And Serhii Myrnyi adds: “According to sources in the ZNPP, Russian nuclear experts from Rosatom have given the Russian military a list of facilities at the NPP – and the NPP is a large complex – that can be shot with relative impunity in the event of a nuclear disaster and now Russian troops are shooting to blackmail both Ukraine and the world community. They also attribute it to the Ukrainian army.”
Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine
On February 24, 2022, Russia and Ukraine on the ground and in the air along the entire length of the common border. The territory of Belarus was used for the invasion of the Kiev region with the aim of capturing the capital. In the south, the Russian army, in particular, occupied part of the Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, and in the north – the regions of the Sumy region and the Chernihiv region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling the large-scale invasion a “special operation.” Initially, its goal was defined as “demilitarization and de-Nazification” – “protection of Donbas”.
Russian authorities say the military does not attack civilian objects. At the same time, the Russian air force, missile forces, navy and artillery bomb Ukrainian cities daily. Demolition of residential buildings and objects of urban infrastructure throughout the territory of Ukraine.
By mid-July, Ukraine estimated Russia’s losses in the war at more than 38,000 personnel. The Kremlin has not released figures for those killed in the invasion, but admits the losses are “significant”. At the end of June, President Zelensky estimated the ratio of Ukrainian and Russian casualties at one to five.
Having not overcome the resistance of the Armed Forces, the Russian units survived in early April from the territory of the Kiev, Chernihiv and Sumy regions.
After the liberation of Kiev region from the Russian troops, events of mass killings, torture of civilians, including children, were discovered in the cities of Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel and in the villages of the region. Ukrainian authorities have declared that Russia is committing genocide. Western countries are involved in confirming mass murders. The Russian Federation rejects accusations of war crimes and calls the Butch killings a “staging”.
Later, the facts of torture and murder of Ukrainian citizens began to be discovered in almost all settlements that were under Russian occupation.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of August 15, 5,514 deaths and 7,698 civilian injuries in Ukraine as a result of the war launched by Russia on February 24, 2022. The UN emphasizes that the actual numbers are much higher .
source: radio svoboda