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Is the world sliding into a Chernobyl-plus nuclear disaster in Ukraine?

Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine

Tensions around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine reached a climax by the weekend , after three more missiles hit the territory where the nuclear waste storage facility is located.

As stated by the head of the pro-Russian military-civil administration of the Zaporozhye region Yevgeny Balitsk ,   the concrete protection of the storage still withstands  the blows. But the situation may change at any minute. "We find hits 300 meters from the nuclear power plant; we find almost hit shells 20 meters from the nuclear waste storage facility. If they get into a concrete storage facility accurately enough, then it's scary to think. It will cause something similar to what happened in Chernobyl – there will be an outburst, it will be a ‘dirty bomb,’ ”  Balitsky, said.

He added that there are several thousand tonnes of nuclear waste at the station."We urge you, colleagues, to convey to your leaders the need to influence the Kiev regime and force it to stop reckless strikes on the Zaporozhye NPP, which actually make hostages of the inhabitants of European states. The responsibility for this lies also with you," the Russian representative added.

"The shells hit the infrastructure facilities, as well as in the area of the nuclear waste storage. While it is very difficult to break through the reactor itself, the storage may well be destroyed. Containers do not have such protection and the threat of a "dirty bomb" effect is quite real," explained Alexei Leonkov, editor of the Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, in an exclusive interview with India Narrative.

The apocalyptic scenario of the emergence of a huge, radiation-infected dead space on the territory of several states in the heart of Europe, including the real danger of pollution of the Black Sea and the Bosphorus Strait, which may become unsuitable for navigation, ceases to look like an exotic media story and a horror story for the layman.

Despite the fact that a nuclear reactor is not a window pane capable of shattering from a small pebble thrown into it, but a monumental structure made of concrete and iron with thick walls, having several levels of protection and a large margin of safety, this circumstance should not be a cause for complacency.

The is no guarantee the HIMALs or 777 howitzers – the pride of the American defence industry supplied to Kiev will not be used to attack the facility. The Multi-Barrel rocket fire can also prove effective.

On August 7, the Ministry of Defence of Russia, stated the Zaporozhye NPP was being shelled from the settlement of Marganetch. As a result of the latest shelling, the Kakhovskaya high-voltage line, which supplies electricity to the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, was damaged. In connection with the missile attack at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, there was a voltage surge that caused smoke in the open distribution facility of the station. According to the Russian defence ministry, fire brigades managed to eliminate the smoke. To prevent disruption of the nuclear power plant, the capacity of the fifth and sixth units was reduced to 500 megawatts.

The Russian Defence Ministry called the shelling of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant "nuclear terrorism".

The long echo of the rocket attacks on the power plant in the city of Energodar reached Japan, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited at the end of last week, who took part in memorial events on the occasion of the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. "Humanity is playing with loaded weapons," Secretary General Guterres said, pointing out that at the moment "there is a rapid spread of crises with threatening nuclear overtones."

At a press conference in Tokyo, the UN Secretary General separately touched upon the situation around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. "Attacks on nuclear power plants are a suicidal act. We hope that this will stop. At the same time, we want the IAEA to have access to the station. And we hope that it will be able to use its competencies," Antonio Guterres said.

It is noteworthy that in his statement, the UN Secretary General avoided the key question of who exactly is carrying out the attack.

But  this issue remains at the center of the information war between Moscow and Kiev. The piquancy of the situation, which gives it additional acuteness, is that the station itself is located in that part of the Ukrainian territory that has already de facto come under the control of the Russian temporary military-civil administration established in the areas abandoned by the retreating Ukrainian troops. However, Ukrainian nuclear specialists are still working at the nuclear power plant, which is protected by Russian air defence systems, and it is formally managed by the Ukrainian company Energoatom.

The Russian side insists that the nuclear power plant in Energodar is being shelled by Ukrainian artillery, carrying out acts of nuclear terrorism. At regular briefings, the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defence, General Igor Konashenkov, cited numerous proofs to determine the origin of the missiles and the trajectory of their flight, which should have removed all questions and doubts that Ukraine is shelling the station.

However, the Ukrainian side insists that it is Russia that is firing at the station, which Russia itself controls. At the same time, such an interpretation does not seem at all illogical and absurd to the Ukrainian authorities. Here's what Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Mykola Tochytsky said in New York: "For the first time in history, civilian nuclear facilities have become a factor in the tactics of warfare. The aggressor State treats the nuclear power plant as an ordinary battlefield, it does not try to take care of nuclear safety at all. The Russians use Ukrainian nuclear facilities as a springboard for attacks on military and civilian facilities in Ukraine, as well as a warehouse for their ammunition." The Ukrainian diplomat also accused the Russian side of exerting physical and psychological pressure on the Ukrainian staff of the station.

This version was actively supported by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. "We are deeply concerned about the fact that Russia has occupied nuclear facilities in Ukraine, especially the Zap nuclear Power Plant, one of the largest in Europe," Anthony Blinken said. According to him, there is reliable information that "Russia uses the nuclear power plant as a military base to fire at Ukrainians, knowing that they will not respond to avoid a terrible accident at the nuclear power plant."  Anthony Blinken described Russia's actions as "the height of irresponsibility" and stressed: "It is extremely important that the IAEA has access to the station in order to understand what is happening there and make sure that the station is operated in accordance with all necessary safety standards."

Anthony Blinken is right: in fact, the moment of truth could be a visit to the Zaporozhye Nuclear power plant by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The desire to personally visit Energodar has been repeatedly stated by the Director General of the IAEA, who pointed out that "if something happens there, we will only have ourselves to blame."

It would seem that this is the very rare case when international inspectors should be given a green light as  the occurrence of the Chernobyl plus disaster must be avoided at all costs. 

After all, radiation will kill everyone, regardless of political views and attitude to the Ukrainian conflict.

However, the IAEA experts still do not go to Energodar and are unlikely to be there. Why? The answer is given by Raphael Grossi himself. "Sending there is a difficult thing. This is Ukraine and a Ukrainian facility, and such a visit requires the consent and assistance of the Ukrainian authorities." Thus, Ukraine does not want any inspections in Energodar, by the way, suspecting the head of the IAEA that he is playing along with Russia. The fact that Kiev is against such a trip of the IAEA inspectors has been openly stated more than once or twice by the head of the Ukrainian Energoatom, Pyotr Kotin.

However, why should  Ukraine oppose the visit?

It is very symbolic that the authorities of that part of the Zaporozhye region, which is already controlled by Russia, signed an order on August 8 to hold a referendum on joining Russia.

 It is very likely that the referendum will be held in early September. President Zelensky is inevitably losing the country. Apparently, Kiev understands this, although they don't say it out loud – so that Western partners and sponsors don't hear it.

In a situation where the regions are splitting off one by one from the unitary Ukrainian state that is falling apart, formally still retaining its jurisdiction over them, an inhuman logic works: if you want to leave, then you will leave Ukraine not alive, but dead. Those who do not want to live as part of Ukraine, those who were unable to appreciate its "European project", those who line up for passports of Russian citizens, their children and grandchildren, have no right to live at all.

They should be sentenced to a slow execution — by radiation. Let the Chernobyl accident seem like a good fairy tale to them against the background of Chernobyl plus. And Russia will receive as a reward from the dying Ukraine a huge infected territory, the restoration of which will require decades and hundreds of billions of dollars. Let it be a cost for Russia, huge cost.  At the same time, Russia, which has lost the information war, will appear in the eyes of the whole world as the main culprit of the main technogenic catastrophe of the 21st century.

Also Read: India expresses concern over shelling near Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

(Sergei Strokan is a veteran journalist, writer and columnist of the Kommersant publishing house based in Moscow. The views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)