Ukraine’s Shelling of Nuclear Reactors Must Stop

August 8th, 2022 - by Steven Starr / Special to EAW & Russian Federation Ministry of Defense

Note: The videos actually depict a Russian attack on the reactor site in March 2022.

Ukraine’s Shelling of Nuclear Reactors Must Stop

Steven Starr / Special to EAW

(August 5, 2022) — This is extremely serious. Ukrainian forces fired twenty 152-mm shells at the plant.  There are 6 nuclear reactors with spent fuel pools there; this is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. A small miracle prevented any of the shells from creating a catastrophic release of radiation.

This shelling MUST STOP. People need to realize that nuclear power plants can become targets during wartime.

Every nuclear power plant has a spent fuel pool where used uranium fuel rods are stored; spent fuel pools contain some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet — they may be “safe and clean” during peacetime, but when war breaks out spent fuel pools become gigantic radiation dispersion devices waiting to be released by bombs or artillery shells.

I am attempting to get a URL for this (it appears that the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense website is blocked or down )

Russian Defense Ministry Protests Ukranian Armed Attacks on Zaporozhye Reactors

Note: This is the same reactor that Russian forces attacked in March 2022

(August 5, 2022) — On August 5, 2022, from 16.20 to 17.24, Ukrainian armed formations carried out three artillery strikes on the territory of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant and the city of Energodar. A total of twenty 152-mm shells were fired.

As a result of the shelling, electricity and water supply are partially absent in the city of Energodar, part of the equipment of power unit No. 3 has been de-energized at the NPP, the generated power of power unit No. 4 has been reduced. In addition, the hydrogen pipeline has been damaged, which caused a flare ignition of hydrogen at the hydrogen station.

By a lucky chance, the Ukrainian shells did not hit the nearby oil and fuel economy and oxygen station, which managed to avoid a larger fire and a possible radiation accident at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

The special cynicism of this provocation of the Kiev regime is given by the fact that it was carried out during the international conference of the NPT in New York, under the auspices of the UN.


Jul 20, 2022  —  Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine of firing two drones at a nuclear power station in the partially occupied Ukrainian region of …

Jul 20, 2022  —  Ukrainian drone targets nuclear plant but caused no damage, Russia says … The Russian-installed administration in the partially occupied …

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, across the Dnipro River from the Ukrainian town of Nikopol, is being used by occupying Russian forces … Nuclear power plant attacked by Ukrainian kamikaze drones ….

Jul 20, 2022  —  A screengrab of Vladimir Rogov’s Telegram post, claiming to show evidence of Ukrainian kamikaze drones that hit the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power …

Jul 20, 2022  —  Three Ukrainian “kamikaze drones” reportedly struck Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station on Wednesday, injuring a dozen employees and causing …

Jul 21, 2022  —  It was earlier reported that three Ukrainian kamikaze drones had struck the premises of the Zaporozhye NPP in Energodar. The nuclear power ..
Ukraine drone strikes nuclear plant, no damage reported

Jul 20, 2022  —  The Russian-installed administration in the partially occupied Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia said on Wednesday that Ukraine had conducted ..Russian occupation official says Ukrainian drone struck …

Jul 21, 2022  —  Russian occupation official says Ukrainian drone struck nuclear plant but caused no damage … – The Russian-installed administration in the …

Jul 21, 2022  —  Kyiv : Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine of targetting a nuclear power station in the Zaporizhzhia region using drones.

The Cesium Problem
Pro-nuclear propaganda greatly minimizes or ignores the damage done by the catastrophic release of radiation from the destruction of nuclear power plants. The destruction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 is believed to have released about 2 million Curies of cesium-137 (about forty to fifty times less than is now found in a typical US spent fuel pool).

The Chernobyl reactor burned for about two weeks, and the radioactive smoke and gases from the fire spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Radioactive fallout from the disaster created a 1,090 square-mile uninhabitable radioactive “exclusion zone” surrounding the destroyed reactor, from which almost 200,000 people were permanently evacuated. About 6,000 square miles of land contaminated by the disaster was classified as a strict-radiation dose control zone, where food cannot be grown.

The animation in the link copied below was created by the French nuclear agency, the IRSN; it shows the spread of cesium-137 from Chernobyl.

Animation of Chernobyl’s Radiation

Cesium is the second most volatile element after mercury; cesium becomes a liquid at 82 degrees F and when fuel rods heat to the point of rupture or ignition, most of the cesium in the rods has already become a gas.

Thus, any accident at a nuclear reactor that causes the fuel rods to rupture, melt or burn will cause the release of very large amounts of highly-radioactive cesium gas. This is why the radiation contamination maps of Chernobyl and Fukushima focus on the levels of cesium-137 in the soils.

Cesium-137 has a 30-year half-life, meaning half of it will self-destruct every 30 years; heavily contaminated areas will remain unsafe to live in for more than a century.

Notice that the key to the above map (which was made by the CIA in 1996) uses the amount of cesium-137 per square kilometer as the basis for grading the degrees of contamination of the exclusion zone. The units used in the key are Curies of cesium-137 (1 Curie = 37 billion atomic disintegrations per second).  The radiation closed zone, or permanent exclusion zone for inhabitation, has levels of cesium-137 equal or greater than 40 Curies per square kilometer.

There are 88 Curies per gram of cesium-137.  In other words, less than one-half of one gram of cesium-137, made into an aerosol and evenly spread over one square kilometer, will make that square kilometer into an uninhabitable exclusion zone.  That would be 1.2 grams per square mile; a US dime weighs 2.7 grams.

Approximately 40 percent of the radioactivity in US spent fuel comes from cesium-137. Because there is no US long-term geologic storage facility for spent fuel, US spent fuel pools (originally designed for low-density storage) were converted to high-density storage and are mostly filled to capacity, typically holding 3 to 5 times more long-lived radiation than found in the reactor core. Alvarez calculated that many US spent fuel pools contain 1000 pounds of cesium-137.

In 2011, Alvarez et al calculated that 4.5 billion curies of radioactive cesium-137 resides in US spent reactor fuel, which is roughly 170 times more than what was released by all worldwide atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. Many US spent fuel pools each contain 3 to 4 times more cesium-137 that was released by worldwide nuclear weapons tests.

1997 study done for the NRC estimated the median consequences of a spent fuel fire at a US pressurized water reactor (PWR) that released 8 to 80 million Curies of cesium-137. The consequences included: 54,000–143,000 extra cancer deaths, 2000–7000 square kilometers (770-2700 square miles) of agricultural land condemned, and economic costs due to evacuation of $117 to $566 billion

All this makes commercial nuclear power plants targets for terrorists, as well as possible targets in wartime.  We only have to look at Ukraine today to see this is true.  If they are destroyed in war, they become gigantic radiation dispersion devices.

Massive ocean contamination from Fukushima reactor meltdowns.

Cesium Bioaccumulates
Cesium is water soluble, and quickly makes its way into soils and waters. Cesium-137 doesn’t simply disappear from ecosystems (it doesn’t simply migrate to lower depths in the soils) because it is recycled in the soils by its uptake in plants, which do not differentiate between it and potassium.  Cesium-137 bioconcentrates in all foodstuffs rich in potassium (berries, mushrooms, etc) and it progressively bioaccumulates as it moves up the food chains, becoming more concentrated in dairy products and meats.

Once ingested, absorbed, or inhaled, cesium-137 has a 110-day biological half-life in the human body, meaning in 110 days, half of the cesium-137 will leave the body.  People living in contaminated regions, who rely on the food they grow or raise, will ingest cesium-137 on a daily basis and thus are constantly exposed to so-called “low dose” radiation.

Children and infants are much more susceptible to chronic exposure to ionizing radiation than are adults; females are especially susceptible. (See my presentation at the New York Academy of Medicine, posted at the end of this email).

The documentary in the link below provides a non-nuclear industry look at the consequences of Chernobyl.

Nuclear Controversies by Wladimir Tchertkoff, 51min, 2004 In 1995, the Director General of WHO Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, tried to inform on Chernobyl by organizing in Geneva an international. Nuclear energy is neither “safe” nor “clean”.  Nuclear fission products are incredibly toxic and must be isolated and prevented from entering the biosphere for at least 100,000 years. That is forever, in human terms.

ENG Into Eternity is a feature documentary film directed by Danish director Michael Madsen, released in 2010. It follows the construction of the Onkalo waste repository at the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant on the island of Olkiluoto, Finland. Director Michael Madsen questions Onkalo’s intended eternal existence.

Nuclear Power: Asking the Wrong Questions
Steven Starr / The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

(June 1, 2016) — This is a discussion in which, as Manpreet Sethi has noted, all the participants “either argue in favor of nuclear power or decline to argue against it. … [T]hey see no need to eliminate nuclear energy.” That is, the Bulletin has selected experts who may suggest new policies or technological fixes for the nuclear industry, but will not call for the industry’s abolition.

I am a senior scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility, a group that does call for abolition. Physicians for Social Responsibility is deeply concerned about the medical and ethical consequences of the ongoing production of enormous amounts of high-level nuclear waste. Such waste, hundreds of thousands of tons of it, sits in “cooling pools” next to nuclear power reactors; many individual pools contain more cesium-137 than was released by all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests combined.

These utterly lethal radionuclides will require some form of supervision for hundreds of thousands of years if they are to be prevented from entering the biosphere. Thousands of generations of human beings will have to perform the supervision.

Only one country, Finland, has begun work on a permanent repository for high-level waste, but it is not yet operational. The only permanent site for low-level waste in the United States, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, is currently closed due to mishaps including a 2014 radiation release. Hence the entire world provides no good examples of safe permanent storage.

But the problem, of course, extends beyond waste — it includes catastrophic releases of radiation, something that the nuclear industry has not managed to prevent in the first 70 years of its existence. And even Sethi admits that “[t]here can never be a perfect strategy for disaster prevention and preparedness.” So there is little reason to think such releases will be prevented in the future.

When they aren’t prevented, as at Chernobyl, the consequences are devastating, as study after study demonstrates.

  • The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, in a 2011 report called “Health Effects of Chernobyl,” found that 25 years after the disaster, more than 90 percent of “liquidators” — the soldiers and civilians, numbering at least 740,000, who fought to contain the reactor fire and clean up afterwards — were severely ill or had become invalids.
  • According to the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, between 12,000 and 83,000 genetically damaged children will eventually be born in “affected countries of the Chernobyl region,” while 30,000 to 207,000 such children will be born worldwide due to the disaster. These cases will take time to appear — only 10 percent of the overall expected damage can be seen in the first generation after exposure.
  • The “TORCH-2016” report, an independent scientific evaluation of Chernobyl’s health effects based entirely upon peer-reviewed sources, finds that about 5 million people in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia live in areas still highly contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster (with more than 40 kilobecquerels of cesium-137 per square meter). These areas include 18,000 square kilometers in Belarus, 12,000 square kilometers in Ukraine, and 16,000 square kilometers in Russia. About 400 million people live in less contaminated areas (with between 4 and 40 kilobecquerels of cesium-137 per square meter).
  • The unfortunate people who must live on these contaminated lands — especially infants and children — suffer greatly from the effects of the long-lived radionuclides (primarily cesium-137) that have contaminated the forests, soils, and foodstuffs to which they are constantly exposed. In 2011, the National Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine issued a national report entitled “Twenty-five Years after Chernobyl Accident: Safety for the Future.” The report found that by 2001, no more than 10 percent of the children living in the seriously contaminated zones of Ukraine were considered healthy. Prior to the dispersal of radionuclides from the Chernobyl explosion, 90 percent had been healthy.

These are some of the consequences of a single catastrophic nuclear accident. Fukushima, meanwhile, is an example of the ongoing irradiation of the biosphere. There will be more accidents. The nuclear industry will continue to claim that such accidents pose “no significant danger to human health.” The evidence indicates otherwise.

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions,” Thomas Pynchon wrote in Gravity’s Rainbow, “they don’t have to worry about answers.” Asking how to prepare for a nuclear disaster is asking the wrong question. It steers the conversation away from the real issue, which is why nuclear power reactors should be allowed to continue producing mass quantities of nuclear poison that must be isolated from the biosphere for more than 100,000 years — forever, in human terms.

The Chernobyl disaster released only a tiny fraction of the radioactive poison that nuclear power has produced. The overwhelming majority that remains is a grave danger, and to ignore it is willful blindness.

Steven Starr is a former Senior Scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility, former Director of the University of Missouri’s Clinical Laboratory Science Program, an associate of the Helen Caldicott Foundation Fukushima Symposium, and a member of the New York Academy of Medicine.

“The Implications of The Massive Contamination of Japan With Radioactive Cesium,” Steven Starr /