Ukraine and the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant: The Samson Solution

Apr 11, 2024

Ukraine continues its attacks on Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi warned that it came “quite close” to a nuclear accident on Sunday after it was attacked by drones.

Dr. Chris Busby, a physical chemist and scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, shares his opinion about what the non-stop Ukrainian attacks on the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant could result in with Sputnik.

We all know the Biblical story of the end of Samson. Having been betrayed and captured by the Philistines, Samson ends his life, and all the others around him, by exerting his great strength and pulling down the pillar he was chained to. The building falls down, killing him and all his captors. This has always been my worry about what I will call the Ukrainian conflict.

As the developments go against Ukraine, there is an increasing tendency to abandon direct engagement with the Russian forces (lack of weapons, poor air cover, army losses) and rather to move to a kind of Terminator 2 warfare. Action at a distance, using robot drones and cruise missiles. A move towards a spiteful kind of warfare that is relatively cheap but results in politically spectacular results.

Well, so what – you may say. For me, as someone who has studied the effects of radiation and radioactive contamination, the possibilities relating to the six reactors and associated waste cooling ponds of the Zaporozhye nuclear site represent something which would have more effect on Europe and Ukraine and indeed the world than anything that has occurred so far.

For individuals in Ukraine, motivated by hatred and spite, the site is a tempting target. Do these people know what it is they are doing, or may do? I think they don’t. Or maybe, like Samson, they don’t care. They want to pull the house down. In this case, Europe, Russia, the world.

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Of course, they have no idea what could happen if one of the reactors went up. Or a spent fuel pond. And let’s be clear, if one goes up, like the domino effect at Fukushima, probably they all go up. That is because nuclear fuel is hot. Even spent nuclear fuel is hot. The fuel in the reactor in shutdown, or in the spent fuel ponds, has to be cooled. If it is not cooled (by pumping water round it, or cooling the water in the ponds by spraying) then it gets hotter and hotter. Then it melts.

When nuclear fuel melts together it forms a critical mass. The neutron flux increases and increases. It turns into a kind of nuclear bomb. That explodes and sends radioactive material up in the air, as with Chernobyl, as with Fukushima.

The winds carry this Pandoras box contents for hundreds, even thousands of kilometres. The Chernobyl radiation went west, after contamination of an enormous tract of land and water courses, sending the contamination through Kiev, down the Dnepr to Zaporozhye and beyond. Studies of cancer and infant mortality, congenital malformations along the water route found significant effects, children died, from cancer, from heart attacks, the population of Belarus, the entire country showed a sharp increase in adult deaths, at the same time a sharp reduction in births.

As far away as Wales and Scotland children died from leukemia; I know this, I studied the numbers which were released to me when I was part of the UK Committee examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters, CERRIE. Babies developed leukemia in Germany and Greece. And the explosion of one reactor at Zaporozhye is a much bigger deal than Chernobyl.

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How could this happen? There are a number of possibilities. First, a cruise missile attack on one of the reactor buildings could theoretically result in the penetration of one of the reactors. There are penetration warheads in existence now that can cut through concrete; using depleted uranium (DU) penetration.

Do we know what Ukraine has in the way of cruise missiles? I don’t. I read that France and UK have given Ukraine cruise missiles. Also depleted uranium weapons. Some of these went up at Khmelnitsky, as I wrote about. The material went north west to Poland, Belarus and Germany, round Scandinavia, and ended up (and was measured) in England. Ukraine has (it seems) promised not to use these cruise missiles to attack distant targets in Russia, or the Crimea bridge. But Zaporozhye is not a distant target. It is just across the river (indeed there was an attack by boats).

Then there could be a fatal destruction of the control room and control facilities, so that the reactor goes mad and can’t be controlled. Then the cooling system could be knocked out. The electricity supply, the stand-by generators. Nuclear power stations are a very big target. They were never built to survive a war. It is no wonder that Rafael Grossi, the IAEA supremo, is worried.

The substances released by such an explosion include Caesium-137 with a half life of about 30 years. That means it’s around for 100 years or more. This causes cancer but also affects muscles, as in children’s heart muscles. They get arrythmias and die of heart attacks. The rate of arrythmias in children in Belarus is 15 %. In the rest of the world the background rate is 2%.

The contamination includes Strontium-90, which binds to DNA, causes cancer and kills children in the womb, or causes malformations. There are (of course) enormous amounts of Uranium particles. Uranium has a half life of billions of years. There is Plutonium. I can go on and on. And on. The radiation, focused inside the body, or the people, the animals, the plants, will destroy everything slowly.

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But what about Chernobyl, you say, that hasn’t destroyed Europe. Well, just look at the cancer rates in Europe from 1986 onwards. In England, in the 1990s, about one in 6 developed cancer. In 2022 it was closer to one in 3. It is predicted (by WHO) to be soon 1 in 2. And this is adjusted for age. No one is asking why this epidemic has developed (except me).

The Samson option, will destroy the health of the population of Ukraine, Europe, Russia, and further afield. It would poison the productive land, crops would fail or else be poisonous.

The Samson option, it seems to me, is a possibility which I put in the same box in my head as Global Nuclear War. Ukraine has no nuclear weapons. But this can be done.

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