The vulnerability of nuclear plants during military conflict. Lessons from Fukushima Daiichi, Focus on Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine
|Author||Greenpeace Int., Jan Vande Putte, Shaun Burnie|
|Classification||6.02.0.10/06 (NUCLEAR TERRORISM - MILITARY ATTACKS)|
From the publication:
The vulnerability of nuclear plants during military conflict Lessons from Fukushima Daiichi Focus on Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine 2 March 2022 Briefing - Greenpeace International by Jan Vande Putte (radiation protection advisor & nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia & Greenpeace Belgium) and Shaun Burnie (senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace East Asia) Ukraine has a complex and large-scale nuclear power infrastructure. It is a country with 15 operational nuclear reactors of which 9 were in operation on February 28th 2022. In addition, the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), with its unit 4 reactor that was destroyed in 1986, 1 is in Ukraine. It is obvious that in a time of war, the operation of these systems are at risk of disruption with the potential for significant, even severe consequences. Nuclear power plants are some of the most complex and sensitive industrial installations, which require a very complex set of resources in ready state at all times to keep them operational. This cannot be guaranteed in a war. An operational nuclear power plant requires at all times electricity supply to power pumps and water supply to cool its nuclear fuel, both in the reactor and in the adjacent spent nuclear fuel pool. Even when the reactor is shut down, there is an enormous amount of residual heat in the fuel core which requires continuous cooling. Without cooling, the water in the reactor core (and spent fuel pool) begins to heat. In the case of an operational reactor the heating is rapid. The water reaches boiling point and begins to evaporate, and the hot nuclear reactor fuel assemblies are at risk of being exposed to air which then would lead to a thermal reaction of the nuclear fuel assembly cladding and reactor core fuel melt. In the case of nuclear fuel in the spent fuel pool, the highly exothermic chemical reaction is called a runaway zirconium oxidation reaction or autocatalytic ignition, with resultant release of a very large volume of radioactivity.