Russia’s war and Ukraine’s nuclear reactors | Yonatan Neril | The Blogs

Nuclear reactors. The Chernobyl Zone. Ammonia tanks. Missiles. These are some of the toxic ingredients in the escalating conflict that Russia is bringing to Ukraine. Russia is not just playing with fire. Its military is now shooting ballistic and cruise missiles in a country with nuclear reactors, pipelines of ammonia, and swaths of radioactive land. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely the first war in history where the theater of war is interspersed with nuclear reactors.

Ukraine has fifteen active nuclear reactors, which provide over half of its electricity. As Russia invades more of Ukraine, fighting could take place near some of these reactors. This should concern all of Europe—there do not need to be nuclear weapons used for this war to go nuclear. An errant or intentional mortar hitting a nuclear reactor in an armed conflict in Ukraine is a possibility, and the fallout will not stop at any geopolitical border.

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the largest in Europe, and among the largest in the world. As defense analyst Craig Hooper wrote in Forbes, this nuclear power plant “is a particular risk… The site has little protection, and the six VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors could easily be embroiled in any Russian invasion.”

The Chernobyl radioactive site covers parts of northern Ukraine, southern Belarus and western Russia. The conflict that Russia began today is a terrible spectacle—vast swaths of uninhabited land, with three armies arrayed nearby, shooting mortars and missiles that explode in radioactive soil.

Russia’s war and Ukraine’s nuclear reactors | Yonatan Neril | The Blogs