Russian Attack on Energy Grid Marks Dangerous New Phase of Invasion, Threatens Nuclear Reactor Safety

Published Nov 23, 2022

Relentless Russian air strikes on the Ukrainian electricity sector Wednesday have caused instabilities that forced the disconnection of all fifteen reactors at its four nuclear stations from the grid.

Below is a statement by Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS):

“Russia’s ruthless attack on Wednesday signifies the beginning of a dangerous new phase in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These targeted attacks on the energy grid not only pose life-threatening risks for Ukrainians but are now also endangering all of Ukraine’s nuclear plants. Nuclear reactor safety has a critical dependence on access to a stable and secure supply of electricity from the grid.

A nuclear plant disaster would further devastate Ukrainian communities already suffering from the direct consequences of blackouts by spreading radiological contamination over a wide area, forcing additional populations to relocate, and endangering food and water supplies. Russia’s despicable tactics, meant to freeze out Ukrainians, could wind up harming neighboring countries, including Russia itself.”

Dr. Lyman also noted that unlike Zaporizhzhia, the nuclear plant that has been most directly affected by the conflict, the other three stations have some older-model reactors that may be less resistant to the impacts of a military attack—especially the two VVER-440 reactors at the Rivne plant.

“It is now clear that a safety zone must be established not only at Zaporizhzhia, but at all of Ukraine’s nuclear plants—and should extend to the entire electrical grid,” Dr. Lyman added.

UCS is actively monitoring the situation in Ukraine.