Analysis| Russian Attacks Spur Debate About Nuclear Power as Climate Fix


Russia’s takeover of Europe’s largest nuclear energy plant in Ukraine ought to spur corporations and policymakers to be extra cautious in plans to construct reactors to combat local weather change, nuclear security specialists mentioned on Friday.

Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear energy plant in Ukraine on Friday after heavy preventing sparked an enormous blaze in a coaching constructing on the website. The hearth was extinguished and officers mentioned the ability was secure.

But the seizure, every week after Russian troops took over Ukraine’s defunct however nonetheless radioactive Chernobyl plant, triggered world alarm about vulnerabilities of nuclear energy to wartime assaults that would unleash lethal radiation.

“You have to take more seriously the need to ensure protection in nuclear plants, not only for natural disasters, but also for manmade ones,” mentioned Edwin Lyman, the director of nuclear energy security on the Union for Concerned scientists.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations, instructed an emergency assembly of the UN Security Council on Friday that the assault on Zaporizhzhia was “incredibly reckless and dangerous. And it threatens the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine and Europe.”

The US Embassy in Ukraine called the Russian assault on the plant a “war crime”. Henry Sokolski, head of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a nonprofit group, said the attack struck a blow to the nuclear power industry as a whole:

“The nuclear reactor in Ukraine didn’t take a hit last night as big as nuclear power will if officials factor in the military vulnerability of these machines,” he mentioned.

Race to Nuclear

Plans to develop nuclear power, which generates electricity while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases, have accelerated in recent years as governments pledge to fight global warming.

There are now 58 reactors under construction and 325 proposed around the globe, according to the World Nuclear Association. Many proposed plants are in Eastern Europe.

The White House said in November that US company NuScale Power LLC had inked plans with Romania to build a small modular reactor (SMR) plant, adding the agreement positioned “US know-how to steer within the world race for SMR deployment.”

Last month NuScale, majority owned by construction and engineering company Fluor Corp, signed an agreement with Polish company KGHM Polska to build another small modular reactor plant in Poland by 2029 as part of an effort to reduce dependence on coal, which emits large amounts of carbon dioxide and lung-damaging soot when burned.

NuScale also signed an agreement in December with Kazakhstan Nuclear Power Plants LLP (KNPP) to explore the deployment of the power plants in that country. Diane Hughes, a NuScale spokesperson, said the Zaporizhzhia “incident once again highlights the fact that nuclear power plants have robust, resilient and redundant safety features” and that its technology is even safer.

And in January, Westinghouse Electric Co signed cooperation agreements with 10 Polish companies for the possible construction of six AP1000 conventional nuclear reactors. It also signed a memo with Rafako SA on the possibility of developing nuclear plants in Ukraine, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Cathy Mann, a Westinghouse spokesperson, said “nuclear vitality is a secure, carbon-free supply in Ukraine and all over the world.” Third Way, a Washington-based think tank that supports nuclear power, said the severity of climate change means the world must rapidly increase nuclear energy in the next few decades despite the risks.

“No energy source is entirely without risk,” mentioned Josh Freed, the group’s senior vp for local weather and vitality. “If (Russia President Vladimir) Putin wants to kill countless people by blowing up a dam or attacking a nuclear plant, he could do it. But the fact is … nuclear plants are incredibly safe,” Freed said.

Others disagree

Lyman from UCS dismissed as “glib talk” contentions that new nuclear reactors will be “so safe and they can be deployed, essentially anywhere in the world with minimal protection.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute, the US industry group, told Reuters it believes nuclear reactors are safe and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine only reinforces the need for Europe to expand its nuclear energy capacity. Russia is currently a major supplier of natural gas to Europe’s power plants.

“We count on that the tragic occasions of the previous weeks will solely enhance curiosity in working with the United States on next-generation nuclear energy deployment,” said John Kotek, senior vice president of policy development and public affairs at NEI.

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