Putin must come to his senses amid combat at Ukraine nuclear plant

An attack on a nuclear facility could cause an irreparable catastrophe. It would be an outrageous act against humanity and civilized society that could never be forgiven.

In Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine, a fire broke out at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the southeast. The blaze was successfully extinguished and no changes in radiation levels have been recorded at this time, but the nuclear plant was reportedly seized by Russian forces.

Up to this point, there has never been a case of an operating nuclear power plant coming under military attack. The Geneva Conventions, aimed at lessening damage from armed conflict, prohibits the targeting of nuclear power plants. The Russian forces’ military action that brought about this situation is a violation of international law.

The Zaporizhzhia plant is Europe’s largest nuclear power station. As Russian troops approached, residents set up barricades to resist an attack and to protect the safety of the plant. The Ukrainian side said that Russian forces launched artillery fire toward the plant, causing gunfire to be exchanged.

At an emergency board meeting on Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted a resolution that called on Russia to halt military operations to ensure the safe operation of nuclear power plants, saying Russia’s action is a “serious and direct threat” to the safety of such facilities.

At nuclear power plants, there are many important equipment such as water intakes for the coolant system, along with pipes and pumps to circulate it. If any of this equipment is destroyed or their management is even disrupted, the stable cooling of the fuel cannot be ensured, which could trigger a serious accident.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated that he will use any means to achieve his goals, including the use of nuclear weapons. Russian forces have already taken control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, which had a meltdown in 1986.

A nuclear catastrophe could extend beyond Ukraine to Europe and the rest of the world. Putin’s words and actions seem to not be sane in continuing nuclear threats and taking control of nuclear power plants while well aware of the danger.

Ukraine relies on nuclear power for more than half of its electricity generation. The strategy of hinting at the power supply cutoffs or the danger of nuclear accidents to force Ukraine into total surrender is a crime against humanity.

In order to maintain the safety of nuclear power plants, it is essential to cease the fighting and remove Russian control. Ukraine and the IAEA as well as experts from other countries need to manage, inspect and monitor them to make sure they are unaffected by the fighting.

Besides Russia, China was the only country that opposed the IAEA resolution. It is nothing short of shameless to be complicit in Russia’s unlawful activities at a time when the world is cementing its solidarity with Ukraine.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 5, 2022.