If a nuclear power plant in Ukraine were to explode, what would be the consequences for France?

The Rivne Nuclear Power Plant, located in northwestern Ukraine, near the Styr River, about 400 kilometers from Kiev. (©iryna_l / Adobe Stock)

The nuclear threat is real, the war in Ukraine reminded us. But when we often think of the nuclear weapon, the bombing by Russian troops on the Zaprijia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, reminds us that a bomb is not not the only threat.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of resorting to “nuclear terror” and of wanting to “repeat” the Chernobyl disaster, the worst in history, in 1986.

What could be the consequences if a bomb causes a nuclear disaster in Ukraine? We tried to find out.

Why the atomic bomb is not the greatest danger?

The warning, by Vladimir Putin, of his nuclear deterrent force, on Sunday, February 27, 2022, aroused fears of the worst. A nuclear war that would clearly be devastating for the entire Earth.

Patrice Bouveret, French spokesperson for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and director of the Armaments Observatory, does not believe however, not for its use in this dispute.

He [Vladimir Poutine] is not suicidal. He wants to expand his territory, show his power, but he doesn’t want to be wiped off the map.

Patrice BouveretICAN Spokesperson and Director of the Armaments Observatory

According to him, the danger of a “conventional” bombing » nuclear installations.

This Friday, March 4, Russian tanks stormed the factory and set fire to a training building and a laboratory. If no radioactive leak was found, concerns only grew over the minutes of this attack, according to Ukrainian authorities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) eventually indicated that no “essential” equipment was damaged.

Videos: currently on Actu

The Russians have took control of the planteven if its operation is “insured”.

Which risks?

There are 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine, spread over four locations.

Russian bombs and missiles can certainly hit a nuclear reactor directly, but there are several risks. “A missile can hit a power line, or even the cooling circuit, or even the personnel,” recalls Patrice Bouveret.

So many risks of a possible catastrophe if the heart of a reactor can no longer be cooled. In this case, the accident could then be compared to that of Fukushima on March 11, 2011.

What impact in France? And elsewhere?

It all depends on the accident. But what is certain and feared is that an explosion would be dramatic.

An explosion in Ukraine would affect the entire planet.

Patrice BouveretICAN Spokesperson and Director of the Armaments Observatory

“If there is an explosion, it’s the end of everything. The end of Europe† It is the evacuation of Europe,” Volodymyr Zelensky insisted. “We must prevent Europe from dying of a nuclear disaster. †

Because besides the serious danger of the explosion of a reactor for local residents and employees, the radioactive cloud would of course not be limited to the borders of Ukraine. ” De radiation will affect the population and environment of other countries“, notes Patrice Bouveret. The cloud does not stop at borders and can affect all of Europe.

It is however impossible to quantify radiation that would be the result of an accident. Everything would depend on the amount of radioactive material being spread into the environment. The impact outside the zone of a possible explosion will also depend on climatic conditions, “and especially the wind”, the ICAN spokesperson specifies. † The risk could be for anyone† †

Chernobyl, the worst civilian nuclear disaster

On April 26, 1986, at 1:23 a.m., reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. To this day, this accident is the most serious that has ever occurred in a civilian nuclear installation. The Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety shows in a video that the radioactive plume from Chernobyl has spread radioactive elements over most European countries. Radioactive elements are detected in North America and Japan.

Which answer?

If, after the fire in Zaporijjia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned ” irresponsible bombingsUnited States President Joe Biden “urged Russia to cease its military activities in the area”.

But for now, no direct sanction in the field of civil nuclear energy.

In France, an environmental association, Robin des Bois, is campaigning for “the inviolability of nuclear sites in war zones that international diplomacy has not been able to avoid”.

White flags on nuclear reactors, to prevent a dramatic accident in an already tragic war.

Was this article helpful to you? Note that you can follow Actu in the My Actu area. In one click, after registration, you will find all the news from your favorite cities and brands.