Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant now a 'nuclear Hindenburg' because of Vladimir Putin: columnist

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant now a 'nuclear Hindenburg' because of Vladimir Putin: columnist
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 26: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the State Council's meeting at Grand Kremlin Palace on December 26, 2019 in Moscow, Russia. Putin warned the United States again this week on an escalating arms race, saying that Russia has become the first country to deploy hypersonic missiles that can carry nuclear weapons at a speed 20-times faster than sound. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images).

As Ukraine prepares to initiate its anticipated counteroffensive against Russian President Vladimir Putin's illegal invasion, concerns are mounting over the possibility of a radiological incident at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant outside of Enerhodar, which has endured repeated rounds of shelling and power outages since Putin's troops captured the facility in March 2022.

Zaporizhzhia is the largest of its kind in continental Europe, and although there are rigorous safety protocols and routine inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a worst-case scenario could play out if the plant is caught in the crossfire between Ukrainian defense forces and Russian artillery.

Sky News reported on Thursday that employees are worried that if Zaporizhzhia sustains significant damage — or is unable to run its backup generators to maintain its reactor cooling pools — that "the level of radioactive pollution, and most importantly the area of contamination, will be thousands of square kilometers of land and sea." The workers stressed that "it would be much, much worse than Fukushima and worse than Chernobyl."

READ MORE: Kremlin propaganda laden with 'clashes and contradictions' over visions of Russian 'victory': report

Sky News also noted that "five of the six reactors are now in cold shutdown, but there are fears Russia may use the power plant to stage a false flag attack."

Columnist Joseph Cirincione of The Daily Beast expanded upon the dangers in a sobering opinion column on Saturday.

Zaporizhzhia, Cirincione wrote, "is a ticking nuclear time bomb. Through accident, attack, or sabotage it could become the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl."

Cirincione posits various sequences of events through which the "nuclear Hindenburg" could come crashing down to Earth:

  • Fighting irreparably disconnects Zaporizhzhia from the electricity it needs to prevent a meltdown.
  • Staffing errors, due to a "deficit of workers for repairs who can actually do the servicing and fix problems."
  • Russian sabotage.

READ MORE: Putin struggles to recover from 'most significant' attack on Russia 'since the Second World War'

A key variable, however, is how Putin decides to respond if his military faces additional defeats or if Ukraine strikes targets within Russia.

Experts have warned that Putin is "running out of options" other than to make good on his ongoing threats to unleash his vast atomic arsenal to level the playing field.

Consequently, Cirincione explained, "There is no winning hand here. It is not only Ukrainian drones that can reach Moscow. Winds could carry the radioactive plumes from smoldering Zaporizhzhia fires deep into Russia. A move intended to harm Ukrainians could instead sow new panic among Russians supporting Putin's war."

Either way, Cirincione concluded, "We would have to say that the odds of just such a disaster are better than even. "The nuclear time bomb is ticking."

READ MORE: Vladimir Putin issues 'dirty bomb' threat in response to drone strike on Moscow: report

Sky News' full report is available at this link. Cirincione's full editorial continues at this link (subscription required).

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