Russia captured Chernobyl. How worried should we be? : NPR


Following the nuclear catastrophe on the Chernobyl plant in 1986, a protecting dome was constructed over the destroyed fourth reactor.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Pictures


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Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Pictures


Following the nuclear catastrophe on the Chernobyl plant in 1986, a protecting dome was constructed over the destroyed fourth reactor.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Pictures

Russia’s seize of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine and the encircling exclusion raised alarms throughout the worldwide neighborhood, with many world leaders questioning if Russia selected to grab the realm for a selected purpose.

However Chernobyl may not truly be the most important nuclear concern in Ukraine proper now, stated James Acton, the co-director of the Nuclear Coverage Program on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace.

What worries him extra are the 4 lively nuclear energy vegetation within the nation that comprise spent gasoline which is extra radioactive than what’s left at Chernobyl right this moment.

Acton stated the seize of Chernobyl may simply be a results of Russia’s try to “conquer the entire of Ukraine or no less than all of jap Ukraine.”

“Chernobyl’s in Ukraine, so I feel from that perspective the Russians need to get ahold of all the pieces within the nation,” Acton stated. “Additionally, simply from a geographic perspective, from the place the place Russian forces have been lined up on the Ukrainian border, via to the assault on Kyiv, Chernobyl is there.”

Russia could not essentially keep away from going via the exclusion zone, Acton stated, including that there may not be a strategic, symbolic or political purpose why Russia took the nuclear website.

Following the invasion, the Worldwide Atomic Vitality Company stated there had been no “destruction” at Chernobyl and that the remainder of Ukraine’s nuclear energy vegetation have been working safely.

The massive exclusion zone round Chernobyl is one purpose why Acton stated he’s extra involved concerning the different vegetation which are lively.

“If there have been weapons used towards Chernobyl, you understand, there have been some sort of new accident that prompted additional leakage of radioactive materials, the truth that it is in an enormous exclusion zone would considerably mitigate the implications of that,” he stated.

Whereas nuclear energy is just not the primary concern of the Ukrainians who’re being pressured to flee their nation, Acton stated Russia’s actions are nonetheless “enormously worrying.”

Nuclear energy services are constructed and designed to have very low chance charges of main accidents, however of the few accidents which have occurred all through historical past, the influence has been monumental, together with the 1986 occasion at Chernobyl.

“The possibility of a serious accident at a Ukrainian plant right this moment is just not microscopically small anymore, however the penalties are nonetheless very massive,” Acton stated. “It worries me as a result of this has gone from being a really low chance, very excessive consequence danger to a sort of not so low chance, excessive consequence danger.

“I can not put numbers on that, however you understand, the chance is way greater than any regulator would ever contemplate tolerable,” he stated.