War in Ukraine. What are the risks of a nuclear accident around the
Zaporijjia power plant? For weeks, the international community has had its
sights set on the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant, which the Russians and
Ukrainians have accused each other of bombing. This Thursday, September 1,
IAEA experts arrived at the plant to assess the security situation there.
Its director general, Rafael Grossi, had earlier warned of the “real risk
of nuclear disaster”. What are the real risks of a nuclear accident around
this plant? In Zaporijjia, near the eponymous nuclear power plant, occupied
by Russian forces and the target of regular bombardments, the inhabitants
are now preparing for the worst, and some are already imagining seeing the
Because the fighting around this power plant with its
imposing silhouette, the largest in Europe, has revived painful memories of
the Chernobyl disaster, which occurred in Ukraine on April 26, 1986. That
year, a reactor exploded, causing the largest civilian nuclear accident in
history and releasing a radioactive cloud that spread across Europe.
According to the UN, around thirty operators and firefighters lost their
lives there, killed by acute radiation, but the human toll of the disaster
is still debated today. According to different sources, the number of
deaths as a result of this nuclear accident varies from a few hundred to
several thousand. The NGO Greenpeace even estimates that it would have
caused 200,000 additional deaths between 1990 and 2004.
Thirty-six years later, this Chernobyl disaster is still present in people’s minds, and some
fear that the scenario will repeat itself in Zaporijjia. But are the fears
of the inhabitants of Zaporijjia, located barely fifty kilometers as the
crow flies from the plant, really justified? Is a serious nuclear accident
“Yes, serious accidents are possible, nuclear power plants
being machines that are intrinsically very sensitive to external
aggressions and not being designed to operate in a context of armed
conflict” , explains Bernard Laponche, former nuclear engineer at the
Commissariat at the atomic energy (CEA), doctor in nuclear physics and
president of the Global Chance association. And this, especially since no
one knows today what the current state of this plant is.
Ouest France 1st Sept 2022