Zaporizhzhia is almost twice as large, though direct comparisons are difficult because the two facilities are completely different beasts, Plachkov explained.
Chernobyl used what are called RBMK reactors, or high power channel reactors: an older Soviet technology that was modified after the disaster and is still operating in Russia today despite safety concerns.
More modern reactors at Zaporizhzhia would need to be reinforced to deal with huge forces such as a plane crashing into them, according to Hamish of Bretton-Gordon, who led the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense forces known as the name of CBRN in the British Army and NATO. .
“However, it is a war zone, there are munitions used which are far more deadly than a plane hitting them,” he said. “Fighting from a nuclear power plant is crazy, it’s just not a good idea.”
The situation is safe for now, according to the UN’s atomic watchdog. But IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the UN Security Council on Thursday that “that could change at any time.”
It’s not just reactors.
The area around the plant contains nuclear waste silos and the surrounding ground could release radiation if disturbed, de Bretton-Gordon said.
“If it caught fire or exploded, the contamination is unlikely to be isolated in Ukraine,” he said. “It is likely to have an impact on the whole of Europe – and Russia as well.”
If a sufficiently large accident were to occur, it could have consequences for the inhabitants of the Ukrainian port of Odessa on the Black Sea, as well as for “the inhabitants of Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Russia”, said Juan Matthews, visiting professor at the Dalton Nuclear Institute. at the British University of Manchester.
He said that the reactors of the plant are on the banks of the Dnieper and that if radioactive material escapes into the river, “it would not be a good situation for the Black Sea which is a dead end or a dead end. bag. Thus, the fishing industry could be killed for the entire Black Sea, which could be disastrous for neighboring countries.
In the case of a meltdown or a cracked reactor containment unit, “then you would get all kinds of radioactive material in the form of dust and things that would go into the air and you would have a situation similar to the accident of Chernobyl,” Matthews added.
What can be done?
The UN has backed calls by Ukraine, the United States and other Western governments for a demilitarized zone to be placed around the plant.
In theory, this would involve Russia returning the plant to Ukraine or a force of UN peacekeepers, who patrol and maintain other demilitarized zones around the world.
The IAEA has also called for access for its inspectors to assess damage, check safety systems and “undertake urgent safeguards activities to verify that nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes.” “Grossi told the Security Council during a meeting on the crisis.
Moscow showed no signs that it was willing to leave the factory, which would effectively yield a major price in its war, just as Ukraine appears to be mounting a relentless counteroffensive.
At Thursday’s Security Council meeting, Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the world was being pushed “to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe, comparable in scale to Chernobyl.” But he added that IAEA officials could visit the site as early as this month.
But in a war that has seen Moscow bomb homes, hospitals and other civilian sites – just as it has in Syria and Chechnya – his opponents currently see his tactic around Zaporizhzhia as another cynical and dangerous ploy.
“No one else has used a nuclear power plant so obviously to threaten the whole world,” said the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement late Thursday. “The world must react immediately to expel the occupiers from the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.”
patrick smith and Heather’s Corner contributed.