ENS Experts Explain Risks At ZNPP And Call For Urgent De-escalation

The European Nuclear Society (ENS) is deeply concerned about the events ongoing in Ukraine, and already joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in condemning once again the attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, demanding an end to further hostilities at any nuclear energy facility, and decrying any military action, whether deliberate or careless, which reduces the safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, nuclear energy workers or IAEA officials in Ukraine.

ENS has always denounced also misinformation spread by any party regarding the safety status of nuclear facilities, as well as misinformation about the risks that a release of radioactive material could present to the public.

As a Learned Society that brings together more than 12,000 professionals from the academic world, research centres, industry and authorities, with the goal of promoting the development of nuclear science and technology and the understanding of peaceful nuclear applications, ENS has been called on express its reliable, scientific and technical point of view on the current situation and on real risks deriving from attacks on the ZNPP.

Several international media have contacted ENS to learn more about the current situation and potential risks at ZNPP.

ENS President, Prof. Leon Cizelj, answered them highlighting some key points:

  • Russian military forces control the Zaporizhzhia NPP since March 4, 2022. The plants are operated by the Ukrainian staff, which is working in extremely difficult conditions. Workers’wellbeing and their personal safety are deeply concerning and should be at the center of the international attention and action. ENS recognises the dedication and expertise of our Ukrainian colleagues who have been safely generating the power that citizens need.
  • Because of VVER reactor characteristics, these power plants cannot explode, so all comparisons with the Chernobyl accident are not correct at all. In the unlikely case that one or more reactors would be damaged and go into a meltdown, the most impacted area would be just around the plants. Even if people would be exposed to serious doses, it’s unlikely to develop acute radiation sickness or even die there. The facility’s staff will most likely stay within the allowed professional dose limits, as happened in Fukushima. The moderate or low potential for impact on human health would be limited to a radius of approximately 20-30 km.
  • In any case, military hostilities around the nuclear facilities must immediately stop, as the ZNPP is currently operating outside the normal conditions taken into account in its design and licensing, and operations are not complying with international nuclear safety rules.

Moreover, Prof. Attila Aszodi (Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary) offers in his blog chainREACtion other interesting technical details on what’s going on at Ukrainian nuclear facilities since March, and a personal comment on possible steps to face the current emergency.

His further contributions are available in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.