Ukraine has always been famous for its achievements in science, technology, and innovation. 30 years ago, about Ukrainians were talked a lot in the field of rocketry, 20 years ago in the field of aircraft construction, now in the field of IT technologies. There are many factories, plants, manufacturers, research centers, test sites, the domestic naval spaceport is being prepared for launching rockets into Earth orbit, and the military-industrial complex receives large orders from both its state and foreign countries. All this potential clearly and straightforwardly fits into the strategy of the Ukrainian energy system, in which up to 60% of needs can or are already covered by the work of nuclear energy stations, which was created during the Soviet era and continued after its collapse. The strategy for the development of the national nuclear network involves innovation, attracting investment for modernization, and, soon, the creation of a new system, thanks to plans to build 14 more power units.
Today, Ukraine has 15 nuclear facilities that produce hundreds of megawatts of electricity, which is the bulk of the country's energy. In second place is thermal energy, and a minority of needs are satisfied by alternative energy, which is much more expensive than the previous two. The associated risks linked with the long-term operation of facilities, heavy workloads, and large investments make this network vital and dangerous at the same time. Used nuclear fuel is also stored partially in our center in the exclusion zone in Chornobyl. But since the beginning of the war in 2014, the risks of these power units have been increasing.
This time it's about something else - the traditional Munich Security Conference took place in Germany from February 17 to 20, and no one paid much attention to the hypothetical catastrophe that awaits us soon. The Russian delegation's absence from the conference was significant - it is not even interested in regional security if the Euro-Atlantic positions of most allies are clearly convinced that the Russian crisis is resolved within the framework of international law.
There are 4 nuclear power plants in Ukraine with many nuclear units: Zaporizhzhya (the largest, 6 units), Khmelnytsky (2 units), Rivne (4 units), and South Ukraine (3 units). In Chernobyl, 6 power units were stopped (or not completed), and 3 more nuclear facilities remain unfinished (Kharkiv, Chyhyryn, and Odesa, we do not have access to the Crimea). We deliberately ignore the Chernobyl nuclear waste storage center, which can be compared to the action of an atomic bomb in short hour-long cycles in case of damage. In total, this number exceeds the 15 declared in the article (all reactors belong to the type of water-water power reactors), but for now let's stop at the existing stations, which produce huge amounts of energy and damage or targeted attack that will cause a horrible effect. Perhaps, in 15 times worse than the consequences of Chernobyl in 1986.
Imagine the mass poisoning of rivers, land, air and the release of substances into space, suspension of flights over Europe, radiation pollution of the whole continent and reaching the contaminated parts of neighbouring continents; a sharp increase in the number of oncological diseases, mass relocation of people, decommissioning of space objects in orbit, mass destruction of all living things within a radius of several hundred kilometers around the stations. Such a threat of this magnitude could put an end to life on the vast expanses of the continent and attempts to locate or prevent the consequences of the tragedy may fail.
The Russian Federation may attempt airstrikes or missile strikes, terrorist attacks, or the recruitment of energy workers, which will cause irreparable damage to the world. Such a catastrophe will surpass Japan's atomic bombings, the Fukushima bombing, and the Chernobyl tragedy in just one day together.
A threat that eliminates our usual life and order, that will force people to hide from radiation and that will economically destroy both Europe and Asia.
We often see on social networks how activists impose the real dimensions of Ukraine on Europe, Asia, and America. They are trying to convince the world that Ukraine is a great country. However, our article is dedicated to the fact that Ukraine is still majestic and potentially deadly for the world. If the world does not intervene on different levels with other instruments, it is in terrible danger.
Possible solutions and guarantees for the country and the world could be to initiate the deployment of IAEA security forces at all nuclear facilities in Ukraine to protect them in the event of a new phase of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Bringing this issue to the UN Security Council, OSCE, NATO, EU, WTO, and other international organizations could give new diplomatic leverage to deter military aggression and convince the world of the impossibility of "surrendering" Ukraine because the collective consequences will simply wipe the face of the Earth. This danger simply destroy the most developed region in history. So we need to start working on this immediately and do everything we can to save the world from an unprecedented catastrophe.
Moscow now controls almost half of Ukraine's nuclear facilities. Unfortunately, we cannot rule out the possibility that it will take control of even more nuclear units. The video of the shelling of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant has spread around the world and should convince the world community of the inadmissibility of dialogue or bargaining with terrorist number 1 Vladimir Putin. One should not think that in the event of a complete loss, Moscow will not blackmail nuclear facilities in Belarus, the Balkans, or even on its territory – this is a direct threat to the free world. We must urge the world to completely isolate Russia until it is forced to end the aggressive war, go through a military tribunal, and pay reparations to the affected countries, first and foremost Ukraine. Only in this way can we be sure of a joint victory over the enemy.”
Mykola Volkivskyi is an international public figure, holder of the Lane Kirkland Scholarship, Founder of the Foundation for the Development of Ukraine in Poland, and the Institute of Government Relations in Kyiv.
Artem Oliinyk is a political scientist, President of the IAPSS in Ukraine and research assistant at the Academy of Political Sciences of Ukraine, Director of IGR (Kyiv).