Russia under Vladimir Putin continues to threaten the power plant in Zaporizhia, risking causing a nuclear accident unprecedented since Chernobyl and threatening the energy transition.
As said Carl Sagan, “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing deep in petrol, one with three matches, the other with five.” The near-universal recognition of the futility of all-out nuclear war has led to a widespread reduction in nuclear weapons since perestroika Mikhail Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Even anti-communist hawks like the former US president Ronald Reagan Reducing nuclear weapons in a practical way. The United States and the USSR reduced their strategic arsenals from more than 30,000 warheads each to about 1,550 in 2011.
For decades, denuclearization was largely excluded from “polite geopolitics” and confined to “crooked” red states like North Korea, while the powers opposed current situationLike Iran, it has been striving to acquire nuclear weapons for the purposes of regional hegemony and protection of its regime. That was until Russia invaded Ukraine again in February 2022, endangering Ukraine’s huge nuclear energy sector, which produced 50% of the country’s electricity before the war.
Since the invasion, Russia has repeatedly threatened nuclear retaliation and escalated its rhetoric against the West with nuclear threats, while its conventional military is in trouble. According to Ukrainian authorities, Russian forces dug trenches at the site of the infamous Chernobyl nuclear power plant and spread radiation there during their initial assault on Kiev. They recklessly attacked the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant in March 2022, even as technicians were filmed live, and pleaded with the Russians to stop endangering Europe’s security by shooting at the plant.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev a mis en garde a lot of reprises against an «apocalypse nucléaire», because the Russians had a station of armes nucléaires in Bielorussie and that the Russian army intercepted a sciemment intercepted by the Ukrainian cibles, in the first lieu of Zaporija, and menaced their capacitance in function Safely. Today, Russia is preparing to cause disaster at the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia during the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
It should not be thought of simply as a matter of “the child who cried wolf”. Russian rhetoric and threats present a consistent pattern that deserves close attention. Moscow is trying to control the escalation of threats by blaming Ukraine, and claiming its corruption. Prior to previous Russian provocations, such as the Nova Kakhovka Dam explosion, Moscow had claimed that Ukraine would attack the station. Russia behaves exactly as it accuses its enemies.
Alarmingly, Russia’s state media agency TASS claims that Ukraine may attack the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant with radioactive bombs, while there is evidence of Russian sabotage at the plant, which the Kremlin denies. Ukraine has absolutely no reason to radiate its territory and isolate its vital allies in a counterattack.
The situation at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant remains uncertain. Not only Vladimir Putin You’re playing Russian Roulette at the end of the world, but it could damage the energy source needed for decarbonisation. Even if nothing happened at the Zaporizhia power plant and all accusations are psychological processes, or if a minor event occurred, think for a moment the damage caused by the accident at Three Mile Island to the US nuclear power plant even though no one was injured. Chernobyl in 1986 and the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan in 2011 changed the global discourse on nuclear energy.
during the forum Continental Dialogue In November 2022, several high-level nuclear policy experts discussed how to prevent this type of incident from happening again: through technology or through institutions.
Technologically, progress has already been made. Modern small modular reactors (SMRs) being developed by companies such as NuScale, TerraPower, and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) are smaller, pre-engineered, cheaper, and easier to maintain and move than their predecessors. Even large conventional nuclear power plants using new materials being developed by companies like Westinghouse and Bechtel are being built in Poland and Romania. Western governments and investors must harness the potential of this new technology and not allow fleeting concerns to derail this potential.
Institutionally, multiple mechanisms can be used to protect nuclear power plants. The situation of nuclear power plants in wartime is described in Article 56 of Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions. The text of the protocol states that the military may not attack a nuclear power plant or anything near it, unless that power plant provides electric current “for regular, significant, and direct support of military operations, and if such attacks are the only practical way to end such support.”
The Budapest Memorandum reinforces Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions and is specific to Ukraine. In this agreement, Ukraine gave up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons in exchange for protection under the umbrella of Nuclear Russia and specific security guarantees not only for Ukrainian sovereignty (which Russia had violated), but also for Ukrainian nuclear energy production.
Together, the Geneva Conventions and the Budapest Memorandum establish a legal basis for protecting the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant. While the difficulty of enforcing international law is not limited to Russia and the Zaporizhia plant, nuclear industry powers, including the United States, France, Korea, Japan, and of course China, must strengthen the enforcement of available legal instruments and sanctions against Russia and state and quasi-state actors in that country.
Russia is putting civilian nuclear energy at risk to achieve its short-term war aims in Ukraine, perhaps hoping to shut down any source of energy generation that might allow the West to do without hydrocarbons in the long term. It could even achieve this without a major nuclear accident, if past events set a precedent. In doing so, it will shoot its nuclear giant Rosatom in the head.
One can only hope that Russia’s actions will not completely block nuclear energy in the world. The West must adopt new nuclear technologies and apply institutional guarantees and international tools to prevent a crisis at the Zaporizhia power plant, not to abandon this energy source. In the era of drones and asymmetric warfare, nuclear safety should be given priority. Also, blackmail should never be rewarded.
Translated article from the American magazine Forbes – Author: Ariel Cohen
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