NEW! Video with Slideshow:
Nuclear Ukraine in a Russian War Zone – There are more ways to trigger a nuclear catastrophe i Ukraine than mainstream media is currently reporting. For this Nuclear Hotseat SPECIAL, we have three interviews with genuine experts. Each knows the nuances of nuclear issues and covers the nightmare variants of possible Armageddon that we currently face. They also provide some positive steps we can take at this dangerous moment towards ridding the planet of all nukes.
THIS WEEK’S FEATURED INTERVIEWS:
- Arnie Gundersen is a nuclear engineer, a licensed nuclear reactor operator and expert witness, as well as the Chief Engineer for Fairewinds Associates
- Karl Grossman is host of the television program Enviro Close-Up with Karl Grossman, a professor at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and author of six books – so far. He has been covering nuclear issues for more than 50 years.
- Dave Kraft is Executive Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), base in Chicago, and a 40+ year veteran of anti-nuclear work.
- Dave Kraft‘s article on the NEIS website: When Nuclear Power Meets War.
- Article on 4th quarter power earnings, containing this quote:
“There’s a realization that Europe has to move away from dependency on Russian oil and gas and one way to achieve that is renewables,” Deepa Venkateswaran, an analyst at Bernstein Autonomous, tells Bloomberg. “Now it’s not just about decarbonization, but also about security of supply.”
- Article by Bennett Ramberg: A Russian invasion raises questions about the country’s 15 nuclear reactors and the dangers they pose
- Article by Tilman Ruff of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW.org) – The Ukraine crisis could trigger a nuclear catastrophe
Welcome to nuclear hot seat, the weekly international news magazine, keeping you up to date on all things, nuclear from a different perspective. My name is Libby Halevi. I’m the producer and host of nuclear hot seat. And this week show is a special on nuclear Ukraine in a Russian war zone. We’re doing away with the regular formatting feature so we can get right to the underplayed nuclear aspects of the biggest news story on earth. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting ongoing threat of a nuclear catastrophe. This week, we hear from three genuine experts with information about Ukraine’s nuclear reactor vulnerabilities, Chernobyl Russian president Putin’s mental state and how the current situation could actually cement no nukes into the climate change conversation. We’ll be hearing from environmental journalists, Carl Grossman, and Dave craft executive director of any I S in Chicago. But first we start with Arnie Gunderson. He is chief engineer at Fairwinds energy education and a licensed nuclear reactor operator. We spoke on Friday, February 25th, 2020 to Arnie Gunderson. We’re talking on Friday, February 25th. And as of last night, Russia has seized control of Chernobyl. What do we know about the current situation there?
There’s probably three or four parts shorts, but let’s talk immediately about Chernobyl Chernobyl had four reactors and they’re all closed down and they’d been closed for a long time now, but the, of course the name there’s probably three or four parts shorts, but let’s talk immediately about Chernobyl Chernobyl reactor blew up in 1986. That’s feud radiation throughout the Ukraine through Belarus, through Germany and the Czech Republic and Russia, and on and on and on the reactors have been shut down. So there’s no more chain reaction occurring. There’s no more new uranium being split, but the pieces after uranium split about 7% of the power comes from the radioactive decay of that rubble of the pieces that broke of the broken uranium AMS. So that radioactive rubble is still inside the Chernobyl facility. And it’s still spewed all over the ground for 20 miles out to an enormous region that is highly contaminated.
So that’s the condition of Chernobyl two days ago? Well, yesterday with the invasion of the Russians, the group that took over the Chernobyl facility came down from the north from Belarus and captured Chernobyl. We’re not sure why the Russians would want it. I I’d like to think that, you know, they designed it and they built it. So they want to take the activity home with them, but I really don’t think that’s their purpose. So the, the Russian motive for capturing Chernobyl is unknown, but a couple possibilities. One that drives a fear factor in the Western Alliance that may do something crazy. Now they could, if they wanted to destroy a large part of Ukraine, they could blow it up and release all that radioactivity. That’s still inside it. The downside of that though, is that it’s very close to Belarus. It’s to the north, to the east is Russia itself and to the south is Crimea.
So if they were to use it for hostage negotiations, and if they were to blow it up one, it would definitely be highly radioactive, but it’s likely that it would blow onto them and their allies. So I don’t know what their motive was for capturing it, but the, the net effect is what’s happened in the last two days, is that the Ukrainians have measured a hundred fold increase in radiation in the environment using these air monitors. It seems like that’s coming because all these Russian tanks are driving through contaminated soil and they’re throwing up the radioactive dust. You know, we take here at Fairwinds radiation knows no borders, and it also has a very long half-life. So while it was trapped in the soil, the very activity of a large mechanized divisions driving over that dirt is going to throw that radiation up. So it’s about a hundred times more radioactive than it was two days ago.
The media is portraying that as still not as significant exposure. And I’m really not too sure about that. You know, the, the peer reviewed paper that Fairwinds and Dr. Mark wrote, it talks about the particle size of these radioactive particles. And they come in small, medium and large, but if a large one gets in your lungs, it will cause a lot more damage than a traditional radiation models. So the question isn’t that the conflict hasn’t created additional radiation, but perhaps over time, when we get those filters back, we’ll be able to determine the size of the particles and come up with a better estimate of what the radiation exposure is. My bottom on Chernobyl is that most of the radiation remains trapped inside the building. It could be blown up, but I can’t figure out why that would happen. However, just the fact that there’s mechanized divisions driving all over the place is going to throw radiation into the environment for miles to come.
And is it likely that when the media or when the officials say, well, the radiation level isn’t that bad? What they’re talking about is external contamination, as opposed to, as you cited it, breathing in some of these particles so that there is an internal dose,
The international council on radiation protection as a convoluted model, that is largely based on an external dose. And of course, what we were able to show in the work we did in Japan and that’s Maggie and I, and Dr. Councilman, we were able to show that a large portion of this radioactivity winds up being inhaled or ingested. So, you know, my concern is that the dose model’s wrong and whatever we hear coming out of the Ukrainian, don’t worry, be happy is in fact, arbitrarily low, we’re going to need some better science to figure out what they got. The interesting thing is, is that it’s Russian troops were picking up the highest exposure was there. The other ones were throwing up this dust. So they may wind up bringing it home and becoming more casualties to their own war. 20 years from now,
Reports are that the nuclear power plant management at Chernobyl has not shown up for work. And the assumption is that they won’t, what kind of difficulties or dangers does this represent?
Most of the mechanical systems inside Chernobyl have been deactivated for years so that the management would be monitoring radiation and things like that. But as far as cooling, the nuclear fuel that’s happened a long time ago and the nuclear fuel no longer needs an active component to cool. It read the same reports that managers are not showing up to work. And I’m sure it’s out of fear, but I don’t think that has any short-term in the first month or so any significant health effects for the people in Ukraine
After the first few months,
But it depends how long it lasts. The longer it goes on the more the systems to track and control the radiation become important. And that’s why you count on the management is to keep those systems in place. And so, as the systems deteriorate, it’s likely that exposures will go up. You know, when hopes that the conflict gets straightened out quickly and gets back to normal. But boy, that’s a real crazy wish. At this point,
Ukraine has 15 operating nuclear reactors at four separate sites, including six reactors. It’s up a Regio, which has only 120 miles from the border with Russia, looking at these reactors, what are the problems that we might face there?
Yeah, you cranes 15 nuclear reactors are almost the same amount as Illinois, Illinois has 11. So to put it in perspective, Illinois is the most nuclear intensive state in the union. That’s a lot of nuclear plants in a relatively small area and you’re right. Six are within a missile shot of the Soviet border. And of course now the Soviet scar much closer even than that. So there’s a couple of questions. It’s a war missiles go where missiles go and shells go or shells go. So it is possible that the nuclear plant could be targeted. But again, I get back to the same argument of earlier, if you target the nuclear plant, the Ansari that radiation is kind of blow on your allies as much as it is on your enemies. So I don’t think it’s likely that the nuclear plants anywhere, the six that are close to the Eastern border or the others that are on the Western side.
I don’t think that any of them will be deliberately targeted because you just have no control over where that radiation heads, it may be used to frighten the Europeans in the NATO Alliance, into I’m backing down. I mean, that’s a possibility that the Russian could say, if you don’t back down, we’re going to blow up Chernobyl, or we’re going to blow up one of these other 15 plants. That’s a possibility. But again, the chances of inadvertently contaminating Belarus or Russia itself, or Crimea are to my mind, significant, but missiles go where misses go. And sometimes they don’t go where you want them to go same with shells. So that there’s also a possibility that they may get hit inadvertently. And that’s to my mind, a major concern, the containment structures can’t withstand an explosion. You know, these, these nuclear plants are built on civil criteria, not Wertheim credit criteria, and nobody built those containments. So where we stand the impact or the explosion of a Russian missile, the net effect is that if a containment were hit, it would be a significant radiological contamination event. The plant would have to scurry to make sure the reactor stayed cool. Even if the containment were breached, but this is a drill that nobody’s ever had to face. And I just don’t know how anybody could respond appropriately in the event of a, the missile strike.
When we were speaking, just before this interview, you mentioned that a major problem could occur not from a missile, but from the loss of power to the nuclear reactors. Talk about that and talk about the vulnerability of Ukraine’s grid.
A nuclear power plant creates electricity, but when it’s not creating electricity, it needs electricity to run the pumps that keep the nuclear radioactive rubble. Cool. So if the grid is intact, if the electric system in Ukraine is intact, if the nuclear plant were to shut down, it could rely on the electric grid to maintain the schooling. But that’s really unlikely in a, you know, there’s 190,000 Russian troops there. And the likelihood of the grid collapsing to my mind is pretty significant. Well, when that happens, that’s called a loop L O P loss of offsite power and nukes have diesels diesel generators. In that event, these diesels are huge. They’re longer than a longer than a car. And then the generator portion is probably another car. These are really big engines. They came from tug boats. Then they are designed to run for long periods of time, but they’re not designed to start up quickly.
And in a nuclear plant, they have to start up and assume full power in 42 seconds. So problem number one is if they lose the grid and they have a loop, then the diesels have to start, you know, about 98% of the time diesel start effectively, but there’s still a risk that the diesels may not start. But to my mind, the biggest problem for any of these nukes is that the diesels have limited fuel on site. They can run for about a week or two with the fuel that’s onsite, diesel fuel. And after that, there’s no way to call the plant. Now they rely on diesel fuel being delivered from external sources to fill those tanks up and continue the operation of the diesels. Well, in a war, it’s not clear to me that you can count on fuel deliveries to your 15 nuclear plants.
My biggest fear is that everything will work, right? The plant was shut down the diesel carrying on and they’ll run out of fuel. And that’s an identical consequence to what happened at Fukushima, the fuel overheats, the containments explode, and it goes downhill from there. So it’s imperative to have plans in place to get diesel fuel to those 15 nuclear plants. And if the Russians are surrounding a nuclear plant, then it’s on them to get the diesel fuel. Then if the Ukrainians are in control of that area, it’s on them to get that diesel fuel in. But in a societal collapse, like a war, it’s not clear to me that the diesel fuel will get there in a timely manner. So my biggest fear is not a missile hitting it. That’s my second biggest fear. My biggest fear is that they’ll need the diesels, the diesels work, and they suck down all the diesel fuel and an outreach point. You can’t call the plant
And the result would be a meltdown on power with Fukushima.
Yes, that’s exactly what happened. That Fukushima, when the diesels failed, they had also by then lost the offsite power. Then of course, you had a meltdown in a couple of days. So that’s the greatest fear. Now one would hope perhaps they’ve parked the diesel oil truck at each one of these facilities that may get them a month down the road. But, you know, that becomes a target. If there’s a truck sitting around with diesel fuel in it, it could also be used to fill tanks. So, you know, that’s a military target, whereas a nuclear power plant may not be no, I think this whole discussion talks about the root of it is that nuclear power plants work in a civil society. But as soon as there’s any kind of an upset in the society that we’ve not taken into account nine 11 Hijacker driving an airplane into the side or a war, no one ever designed or anticipated those events that happen. So it’s outside of the realm that the designers have any kind of protections in place for.
So in Athens, even without a nuclear bomb going off each one of these nuclear reactors is in essence, a nuclear bomb without the fireball, it would have the radiation release and the damage without the visible fireball with the mushroom cloud.
It’s actually worse than that. The radioactive levels inside those nuclear reactors are worse than the radiation that’s released from a nuclear bomb. And it’s at ground level a nuclear bomb releases its radiation out a couple thousand feet in the air and sucks up ground around it from a convective current that also becomes irradiated, but what’s inside a nuclear plant is easily a hundred to a thousand times more radiation than in a bomb at ground level. And across then the problem there is that there’s not the dispersion, something doesn’t go up into the air and float and mix with other air particles for a thousand miles. It happens right at ground zero. So if these nukes don’t get the diesel fuel and they explode like Fukushima will have the same consequences we did at Fukushima. And I just hope that regardless of if it’s the Russians surrounding a nuclear plant or the Ukrainians defending and you’re going to plant, they put plans in place to make sure that those plants don’t run out of diesel fuel.
This of course gives lie to the propaganda that’s out there. That nukes are really clean green and the solution for climate change, because this is a whole level of danger and potential catastrophe that hasn’t been factored into the entire discussion of the small modular nuclear reactors and the push that’s going on. Do you agree with that? And how do you see that factoring in with say the European union, just having approved nukes as green and worthy of their financial support.
You know, the war really puts the whole spotlight on the issue of central station power. The Russians are threatening to shut down the gas line. So the central station power plants that run on gas are threatened and here, of course, 15 nuclear plants likely will close and hopefully won’t melt down. So this concept of central station power is really in the spotlight as a result of this war. It also talks about our dependence on fossil fuel. You know, Europe wouldn’t be held hostage if it weren’t so reliant on gas and oil coming from Russia. So it’s twofold. First is the reliance on fossil fuels. We’re crazy to continue down that road. And I hope that that Europeans wind up with a lot more solar and wind as a result of this rather than relying on anyone, but especially the Russians. But the second piece of that is that any of these large central station nukes need cooling in the event of just the normal grid collapse, you know, like the Northeast blackout of this 1970s.
So they all need cooling and the need for cooling is even worse, of course, in the event of a war when you have lost the civil society. So this war really, it brings into highlight the effect of the loss of a civil society on any central station power. And we should really be thinking about the advantages of distributed power. Distributed power is a small sources of power, but thousands of them now the example, there is a tree as a tree I’ve 10 really big leaves that it counts on for its energy, or does it have a couple thousand little leaves? The tree analogy is a perfect example of distributed energy. Then if your point that way there’d be no need for these large central station power plants. There’d be no need to be held hostage by Russians for fuel, things like that. And I hope that one of the positives that’ll come out of this is that people will rethink that central station paradigm and using fossil fuels in general and say, Hey, we’re, we’re on the wrong path. We we’ve got to get to a renewable distributed economy. I think maybe a hundred years from now. When historians looking back on this era, we’re going through, it’s not going to be pro nukes and anti anti-nuke. It’s going to be a paradigm shift from central station power to distributed power. And this war should just drive that point. Home that distributed power is much safer and much more easy to control.
This of course is an ongoing and breaking story. And we have just learned virtually as we started this interview that the Russians have moved missiles into Bellaruse. What is it that is known about it so far?
There are reliable reports that show that the Russians are bringing in intermediate range, nuclear tipped missiles into Bellaruse. Now of course, Putin has claimed that he’s not afraid of having a nuclear war and you don’t know if that’s he’s known he’s soapbox or not, but that they’re moving missiles closer to Poland or or Germany for that matter means that there’s less of a response time for the NATO nations to react. It’s likely that Putin is trying to drive a wedge into the NATO Alliance. I don’t think that’ll happen, but you know, crazy things happen in a war. And if you bring in dozens of nuclear tip missiles with, you know, a bunch of 20 year olds driving them around the forest of Belarus, it’s entirely possible that a mistake could happen. And it’s also possible that Putin is not bluffing and he’s willing to use one. I’m not suggesting he’s going to use one on the 15 nukes in the Ukraine. He’s going to use it if he does on a target in NATO, in an attempt to break up the Alliance. And at that point, I have no idea where the world goes. I hope and pray. It will not be in that direction.
Arnie Gunderson, chief engineer at Fairwinds energy education, we’ll continue this nuclear hot seat special on nuclear Ukraine in a Russian war zone in a moment. But first, if you ever had any doubts as to why nuclear hot seat needs to be here for you, this episode should put those thoughts to rest. There is no more urgent story on earth right now than the possible nuclear consequences of what’s happening in Ukraine and without nuclear hot seat, you would at best only know bits and pieces of those nuclear dangers, not the big picture nor how the pieces fit together. This episode provides the blueprint of what we all face. It’s pretty frightening, but we need to know the truth. Part of what’s being done to help you get this information is that I’ve moved up the launch of the new nuclear hot seat website, because starting with the new site, each episode will have its own transcript.
That means by next week, I’ve been promised March eight for the launch. This episode will include a full transcript for you to search and read it’s part of nuclear, hot seats, mission statement to get you the nuclear information, you will not find on mainstream media and this new feature will make it more accessible and usable. That’s why the time to help us out is right now, go to nuclear hotseat.com, click on the donate button. Any amount will help, and you can set up a monthly sustaining donation as well, a cup of coffee as it were for $5 a month, which does sustain our efforts. So help us so that we can help you to understand nuclear issues in Ukraine and beyond know that whatever you can do to help. I am deeply grateful. Now, back to this week’s special edition of nuclear hot seat, nuclear Ukraine in a Russian war zone. Our second interview is with Carl Grossman and award-winning investigative environmental journalist. We spoke on Monday, February 28th, 2020 to president Putin’s declaration. As the invasion began was that if any nation tries to impede us, the Russian response will be immediate and lead to consequences. You have never seen in history, a brazen threat of starting a nuclear war. Now there are reliable reports that Russia is bringing nuclear tipped missiles into Bellaruse. Are these scare tactics or is it possible that they will actually be used?
The starters Putin’s threat of clear conflict of starting a nuclear war is, and this is according to the lawyers committee on nuclear policy based in New York, an eminent group is a violation of the UN charter, which disallows such unlawful threats of force as to now has proceeding, not just threatening, but doing it mobilizing the nuclear arm of the Russian military, be prepared for, for nuclear war, possibly he’s doing it because well, to increase the pressure on Ukraine and Ukraine also, there’s been an analysis. The Washington post had an interesting piece. This is just yesterday by Caitlin Talmage that what Putin is trying to do is to indicate he’s just enough of a madman to lash out when his back is against the wall. However, the former us ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, he said in an interview on TV that he finds Putin, that he knows Putin is becoming increasingly on unhinged and others have in recent days, spoken about Putin being out of it.
So here is this Hitler like dictator of Russia talking about nuclear war. I don’t think his threat. I don’t think at this point, his military moves should be taken lightly. I mean, just to put it in a wider context, it isn’t just Russia, but it’s the United States. It’s the United Kingdom. It’s others with nuclear weaponry still believe that nuclear war is winnable. It’s feasible. Faculty United States has been involved in a $1 trillion modernization of its nuclear arsenal though. Here is Russia and Putin and his army not doing well at this point. Would he use nuclear weaponry, particularly tactical weaponry? Would he escalate beyond tactical weaponry? I think it’s quite possible. We could be at the point of doomsday because if potent turns his invasion of Ukraine into a nuclear conflict and uses nuclear weaponry, I think the response is going to probably be nuclear and that could escalate beyond just battlefield nuclear weapons, which we haven’t. They have. It could be. I hate to say it. I hate to think about it, but it’s a reality we’re facing it’s enormously scary. Again, the nuclear clock stands for nuclear annihilation because nuclear war is not winnable. Nuclear war is suicidal and as suicidal, not only for the parties that engage in it, but for, for life on earth,
Given the fact that these weapons are now on the move in Belarus, it brings up the fact that in February of 2019, then president Trump pulled the United States out of the intermediate range, nuclear forces treaty with Russia, which banned all of the two nations land-based missiles with ranges of between 300 and pen and approximately 3,500 miles that would put Bella ruse, definitely in proximity with the UK, with Germany, with France, with so many of the other countries in Europe, if that treaty had continued, might that have impacted the current situation or would it probably have been ignored? Given the current circumstances?
The question is whether Putin would’ve complied a bit going back to Trump’s action. I mean, it’s, it’s along the lines of his famous league saying, Hey, we have nuclear weapons. Why don’t we use them? I mean, th this idiotic declaration, on the other hand, we have Trump’s buddy now making a decision which could cascade into, well, the group beyond nuclear. I mean, I’m on the board of beyond nuclear it’s based in Tacoma park in Maryland issued a statement just a couple of days ago. We are in an unprecedented situation for the first time, a war happening in a region where there are operating nuclear reactors, there’s 15 nuclear power plants, and Ukraine beyond nuclear goes on. If there is inadvertently or purposely nuclear conflict involving these nuclear power plants should a major release of radioactivity occur due to the damage or destruction of any one of the 15 nuclear plants. The scale of disaster would escalate to unimaginable proportions affecting populations well beyond the boundaries of Ukraine and Russia. So we easily, we easily could be at the precipice of what’s been feared since the atomic bomb was developed, since it was invented of nuclear annihilation and nuclear apocalypse.
Hold on for a second. I periodically in these interviews, I have to catch my breath in the previous interview. Arnie Gunderson, the Fairwinds spoke of this situation in Ukraine is demonstrating the dangers of central station power, meaning a single provider of energy resources versus distributed power. As in rooftop, solar wind generation, and the like, and Bernie Sanders has called for an international transition to genuinely green, renewable energy. And he said, here, I quote, not only to combat climate change, but to deny authoritarian Petro states, the revenues they require to survive. So how do you believe a shift to genuinely clean green, sustainable energy distributed power factor into our national security and international politics,
Clean green energy, which we can live with in terms of not doing what nuclear power does impact on health. Even when there’s not a catastrophic accident, just routine operations of nuclear power plants, and beyond all the public health issues. We couldn’t do it. There’s no need not to do it. There’s no reason not to go to green, sustainable, safe energy. We have the technology, Nat are do it beyond all that you factor in nuclear technology, nuclear power, which involves these billion dollar plus huge nuclear power plants, these centralized power plants, and then the military component. I mean, nobody is going to attack our wind turbines. Nobody is going to go after our solar arrays, not to mention rooftop, solar clean green energy lends itself to peaceful coexistence because they don’t present targets to the enemy, nor do they create if it’s an inadvertent situation, having these lethal machines in the middle of a war zone.
I mean, if humanity doesn’t figure out how to live peacefully at long, long west, and there’ll be war in oncoming centuries and oncoming millennia. And I hope not, but I mean there’s 500 nuclear power plants around the world. There’s a push to, to build many more. In fact, Russia is a leader in that Bush scattering, these lethal machines, all over the planet, pre deployed weapons of mass destruction. And inevitably, if there’s not going to be an end to war, some of them ending up in war zones, it’s a suicidal movement by humanity. We have to get away from nuclear power. We have to go to many other reasons, but also because they don’t represent targets to an enemy or lethal machinery that might end up in a war zone, we must have clean energy and we must have peace. We must eliminate nuclear power. We must eliminate my view, nuclear weapons, and they’re tied together because nuclear power plants produce the plutonium that is used as fuel.
And while the atomic bomb, the Nagasaki bomb, most atomic bombs and provides the trigger in the hydrogen bomb piece. Can’t be a fantasy piece. Can’t be a dream that will never happen. People can work for peace. People can have peace. People can get along. You have to strive for peace. And we have to strive for a, a non nuclear world. The United nations has set forth areas of the planet as nuclear free zones, portions of the south Pacific Africa and so forth. In my view, if we’re going to make it out of all this, the whole planet must be a nuclear free zone, no nuclear weapons, no nuclear power. I think it will be inevitable considering the history of humanity and war that nuclear power plants would be part of the equation of conflict that can’t be allowed to be when war comes, things get very crazy how it has to be is all of us, the whole world saying no nukes, no nuclear power. Let’s go. The Greenway. Let’s go with solar and wind and geothermal and the abundant technologies here today, which could provide all the power we need. And aren’t, and can’t become targets in war purposely or inadvertently because they’re safe. The green peace and green energy. It’s a perfect marriage, war and nuclear power we’re talking about ultimately, hell,
That was award-winning investigative environmental journalist, Carl Grossman. Our third interview this week is with Dave craft. He is executive director of nuclear energy information service, N E I S based in Chicago, Dave craft, you posted an excellent nuanced analysis of the nuclear situation in Ukraine on the NIS website. And of course we will link to it for the show. I was particularly impressed not to say terrified by your description of the extent to which one nation can hold another nation hostage by constraining or threatening the supply of energy resources. Explain how that factors in and plays out with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
And you’re upright now is such that Western Europe is heavily dependent on Russian gas. That’s been known for decades. And of course the controversy over the second pipeline between Germany and Russia has been specifically in the news quite a bit lately, but it just shows not only the importance of energy in modern society, but its kind of devalued sense. You know, it’s treated like a commodity like ping pong balls or strawberries. So it doesn’t get the strategic attention that it deserves to protect nations. So they don’t end up in situations where they’re held hostage by another country who gleefully turn off the gas pipe, which is actually what Russia did a few years back with Ukraine. A number of years back in winter, or there were disputes over the price of the gas and Russia said, well too bad. You know? So this just shows them not only the strategic importance of energy generally, but the need, the absolute need for countries to become self-sufficient in as many ways as possible, but they have to be Greenways, which we’ll get into in a minute.
The other aspect though, of this nuclear hostage situation is that any nation that even attempts now to build nuclear power infrastructure, which they are guaranteed by the United nations charter provided they are pledging. It was for peaceful uses, becomes suddenly a target of weapons and air forces of other nations. We saw this happen when the Israeli air force overflew to neutral countries to bomber a reactor under construction in Iraq at a OSA rack outside of Baghdad, there’ve been books written about that. We’ve seen the United States and Israel bomb reactors under construction or research reactors in Syria and Iraq as well. We had the NATO intervention that which took place in the Balkans under the Clinton administration where nuclear experts were very concerned that errant bombs unleashed by NATO would damage or possibly even hit structures, which they knew contains sensitive nuclear materials. So anyone at this point who has a nuclear reactor, a reactor and a construction, a nuclear research program might as well put bulls eyes on those four adversaries who apparently have no regard for international law. And if they feel that they are threatened, we’ll make those reactors targets.
What are the current nuclear targets in Ukraine that we know of at this point? And we are talking on Sunday, February 27,
Ukraine has 15 operating reactors on four sites. And several weeks back, even before the fighting started, we were very concerned about the ones in Eastern Ukraine. If those operation site, that site is the largest nuclear reactor complex in Europe, it has six reactors, the V V E R design, which is a Russian Soviet design. Most of them I believe are VVR one thousands, which makes them the current and best generation of that. What we’re most concerned about though is number one, the reactor fuel that gets taken out of reactors when it’s no longer useful, it has to be stored somewhere. And it all reactors, not just in Ukraine, but around the world. These fuel rods are being stored in dry cast, outside of the strong containment buildings that everybody boasts about in the case of the Ukrainian reactors, we know that they’re stored in auxiliary buildings, which is better than what we do in the United States.
And here we just leave them out in the open like bowling pins for everyone to see at least they have auxiliary buildings where they are storing the spent fuel, but these are not as robust as the reactor building. So we’re concerned that either an errand weapon or deliberate strike could hit these waste sites and distribute nuclear materials around the area. Beyond that, we have other concerns with operating reactors in a war zone. You certainly have, as I said, the waste issue, which we’re concerned about, but you have just the operation of these reactors, a number of levels. First of all, reactors are connected to their local grid to get power, to operate their emergency systems. And if the grid is disrupted, it doesn’t even have to be near the reactor site. If a grid goes down somewhere and it’s affects the operation of the reactor, you have serious concerns about whether the safety systems will kick in at those reactors because they are dependent on diesel generators, which very often don’t start up the way they’re supposed to, or the fuel might be bad and not have been replenished.
Recently, the generators may run out of fuel. Not only that, but in a war zone is once you run out of the fuel, how do you get it there? If you have tanks and bombs and planes all over the place strafing and bombing any kind of a truck or a train going into the sites, there’s no way we can guarantee that their lead diesel generator fuel to power the safety system. So that’s a concern, not only that though, but the personnel themselves are the concern. And this brings up the fifth worrisome site in Ukraine. And that is the reactor site at Chernobyl, which of course is the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. In 1986, press reports already have indicated that the Russians have taken over the site. The Russian army has taken over the site and that allegedly the workers are being held hostage, whatever that means.
But we at NIS had seen another press account earlier in this invasion, which indicated that when some of the workers showed up on site, the day that the Russians showed up, none of the management was there. They had split, they left. So the real question becomes, number one, who’s minding the store, number two, who is there to operate it. And do they have the competence, the training, the management skills to keep the reactor safely manage the reactor site. Of course the reactors are not operating a Chernobyl, but there is radioactive waste there. And then thirdly, what about workers who are trying to get to operating sites or the Chernobyl site and run into a military buzzsaw? Will they be safely allowed in from other places or will they be killed on their way to work? These are all considerations that the international atomic energy agency is wrestling with right now, in the case of Ukraine
In the article that you publish, you cite Senator Bernie Sanders in a statement on the Russian invasion that links this invasion to climate change and green energy. What did Sanders say? And what is it significance?
Yes. I want it to prepare this exact quote because it’s important. And the article that’s on the NIS website, which she will post. There is a link to Bernie Sanders website where he says, this is his third point on February 22nd. Now finally in the longterm, we must invest in a global green energy transition away from fossil fuels, not only to combat climate change, but to deny authoritarian, Petro states, the revenues they require to survive. Now you can read that in a very narrow way and saying, he’s only talking about gas and fossil fuels, but if anyone who had a shred of knowledge about Bernie Sanders would go back and think them in and we’ll know that Bernie is not in favor of the nuclear industry as well, because you can be held to nuclear hostage just as easily as you can, a fossil hostage. So what he’s really saying here is nations that begin the methodical transformation away from nuclear and fossil fuels towards a green energy future are going to be getting rid of all of these pretexts for wars, for invasion and for energy insecurity, which threatens them on the battlefield right now.
So once again, the green new deal, a true green energy transition is a must in a world, not just to combat climate change, which of course we’ve been saying all along, but now in the real world of warfare, all of these energy resources that are not green energy are a threat and they have to be dealt with in the same way that we’re dealing with the climate crisis.
What does this current invasion due to the argument by pro nuclear energy forces that nuclear, especially nuclear, the small modular nuclear reactors are a necessary component of combating climate change?
Well, first of all, that whole issue, just in the context of climate change is specious and wrong. And it’s not just groups like NIS or, or beyond nuclear or others saying that it is two former chairpersons of the nuclear regulatory commission. It is internationally renowned energy analyst, Amory Levin’s it is Mark Jacobson of Sanford university. We can go on and on and list all of the energy experts who had said, look, this notion that small modular reactors are needed for climate change is absolute nonsense on many fronts. All it is is another way to suck money resources out of the department of energy research, budget budgets, give it to our own us oligarchs and philanthropists who are billionaires already and delay the actual transition. We need to green energy, which is in the form of renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, and transmission improvements. So just from the climate standpoint, small modulars don’t make any sense.
I was pointing out that by the time they’re licensed and researched and available in the numbers needed to combat climate change will be well past the 20, 30 deadline that it has already been set for the climate code red for us to do anything meaningful. So count them out. They are just money suckers. They’re taking resources away from what’s needed. Now put it in the context of warfare, which is what’s going on in Ukraine. So let’s say that some enlightened philanthropists like bill gates, who’s touting his new reactor or others go over there and say, oh, you don’t need these big reactors. Let’s put small reactors around. Let’s analyze what that means. First of all, you’re distributing nuclear materials and these reactors in a much broader context than you would as they are now. Secondly, it’s proposed that none of these small modular reactors not have these safety structures and robust containment buildings that the present generation of reactors have. In other words, you could just put them in a Walmart type building and run them that way. That’s ridiculous, especially with the warfare going on now in the kinds of missiles that are capable. So you’re distributing the problem. First of all, on the battlefield, the munitions available today could make Swiss cheese out of any of these small modulars and spew their materials all over the place. So it makes no sense from a security standpoint, a military standpoint, or certainly a climate code red standpoint to invest in small modular nuclear reactors.
So it seems that the fact of this invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the pudding at risk Chernobyl 15 nuclear reactors, especially the six at that are so close to the Russian border. We have just learned that they are part of the invasion pathway towards Kenneth with all of that. So visibly. And so frighteningly visible, it seems like this is the moment and the start of an entire shift in the conversation about nukes, about climate change about nukes is green and moving forward in that way, what that’s going to take is a shift in the conversation and a change in talking points, given your Superbowl ability at languaging and communicating, what are some of the talking points that you would like to see us begin to incorporate in our discussions to shift this thing around?
I would have to say there are a number of levels that we can begin this we’ve already discussed a few of them. We have shown that nuclear power in any form, current form, small modulars has no place in either meeting the climate crisis or in promoting any kind of energy independence for a nation because of its security risks. So we have to take it up on those two fronts, which are obvious right now. I have to say, you know, I’m getting too old and becoming much more cynical about things I would have thought Chernobyl and Fukushima would have been the wake up calls enough to move this one. Apparently we haven’t had our noses rubbed in the fan blades deep enough to do that. I hope that this situation in Ukraine and messages like what Bernie Sanders put out last week will be enough to really ignite that kind of conversation at the levels it has to take place.
I am pleased though that even some of the media is starting to pick up on this theme. There was a pretty good article in the guardian a few days back, which brought up the vulnerabilities of nuclear power in Ukraine under the current situation of war. So we have to keep harping on those messages that there is no place safe on the planet for nuclear power in terms of climate or in terms of war. The second is that I mentioned earlier, there are the nuclear hucksters who are going to want to promote nuclear as the alternative to fossil fuels. We have to confront that now and go back to what Dr. Johnny said in 2007, when he wrote the book carbon free and nuclear free, and we have the technology to do it. That’s not even been up for debate over the last 10 years. We have to force the politicians to begin taking that up as a planned methodical transformation of energy structures, not just for climate purposes, but as a national security message.
And war is a pretty good opportunity to talk about national security. So we have to take advantage. I hate to say it opportunistically of the situation now, but if we can’t do it on the circumstances of war in Europe, which war are we going to take advantage of? So that is a message. We have to link those two pieces right now using this situation. And it has to become a United nations mantra. You know, the powers that be the security council, they all have vested interest in continuing nuclear power. In fact, there’s another quote I want to read because I think it’s important and instructive to your listeners, just how vested the nuclear states are and keeping things going. And this is a quote from the president of France Macron two years ago, who had this at a nuclear power plant that he was giving a speech at.
And I quote the nuclear industry lives from it’s complimentary. And it must be thought of in terms of its complimentary fees. This is also why we must constantly think in terms of the longterm of our ability to preserve our technical, technological and industrial skills throughout the industry. Here it is in order to protect our sovereign production capabilities, both in the civilian and military sectors, one cannot exist without the other, without civil nuclear power. There is no military nuclear power and without military nuclear power, there is no civil nuclear power. This attitude, especially amongst the big seven has to be challenged and messages like Bernie Sanders are one way to begin that dialogue. The other thing I would point out again to your listeners is this is an election year in the United States. This needs to become a forefront election issue. We have a climate code red, and now we have a national security code. Red going on and nuclear is at the forefront of the hazard. What are you going to do about it? It’s time to back away from nuclear and go for the green new deal. So these are some of the messages we feel are important to get out right now. If you do that, if we can do that, we obviate the need for any of the uranium infrastructure that’s out there already damaging indigenous peoples around the planet. There’s no need for more uranium mining, no more nuclear weapons. So this begins the, of denuclearize the planet.
If you could help put together a brain trust of climate change anti-nuclear and other interested organizations in order to really launch an offensive about what you’ve just discussed, the talking points, who would you want to be part of it?
The situation presents a great opportunity for the reintegration of the nuclear weapons and peace movement with the anti-nuclear power movement. The two had been separated far too long decades, even where after Eisenhower’s Adams for peace thing, it seemed like nuclear powers on one side weapons is on the other activists like Alfred Meyer, formerly a physicians for social responsibility. Who’ve been harping all along. Look, it’s the same piece, the same animal, one’s a fig leaf for the other. So this is the opportunity. Number one, where these two movements can enhance both of their messages simultaneously and enhance national security. So that’s one area, right? That I would see happening. The other piece we didn’t mention in this context is the environmental justice aspect of nuclear power. And that’s where the uranium cycle comes in. Because as I pointed out, all the uranium mining is taking place on native lands around the world.
You have the and American Southwest. You have the Cree and Canada. You have the, you have the Aborigines in Australia, all being victimized by uranium mining. So this has to be hammered home that nuclear power, as well as nuclear weapons is a serious environmental justice issue. In fact, in spite of the Biden administration’s promotion of nuclear power, it ignored the advice of its own white house advisory committee on environmental justice, which came out against nuclear power and waste as detrimental to communities. So we have to bring up the fact that this is an environmental justice issue and bring that to the attention of the environmental justice community and vice versa that they will argue for the fact that nuclear power and nuclear weapons are environmental justice concerns. So these are two huge opportunities that the crisis situation we have now afforded us
For those people, listening, who want to jump forward and do something substantive right now, what would you suggest they do? What are some actions they can take?
Certainly keep up on the news, but there are a number of activist organizations, both in power, weapons, and peace that people should consider supporting right now and, and becoming more informed on these issues and becoming more active. Secondly, those of you who are already politically involved, and you’re going to be involved in creating slates and candidates and primaries that are coming up this year, raise this issue as the platform issue. This has to be really ratcheted up quite a bit in prominence. So those people who are in the, either the Republican party, the democratic party, the independence, the greens, this has to be a priority issue. And part of the platforms in the election year, 2022, this can be done now, thirdly, and I think very importantly, in the current situation, though, there are many organizations right now, which are establishing relief efforts for the people of Ukraine, the refugees who are leaving the country and going into Western Europe, as well as those who are remaining at home. And there will be opportunities and, and, and postings of reputable relief efforts for the people and the victims of Ukraine. And in this situation, those are things people could just do off the bat right now.
Anything else you want to add?
I wish I weren’t so old. I wish I had more energy NIS. My organization is it turns 41 this year and we’re doing it even before this. So this is not something that is a sprint. It’s obviously a long distance race and long distance run. But we have an opportunity here now that we’ve been given, we can’t squander it. We have to unfortunately take advantage of a crisis situation to take these two industries and say no more.
It was Dave craft, executive director of nuclear energy information service, N E I S all links mentioned by Dave and the other interviewees will be available on our website, nuclear hot seat.com under this episode, number 5, 5 8. This has been nuclear hot seat for Tuesday, March 1st, 2022. If you’d like to get nuclear hot seat by email every week, go to the website, nuclear hot seat.com. Look for the yellow opt-in box. Put in your information. You’ll get it hot off the press every week. If you wish to contact us, we’re always [email protected]. And if you appreciate weekly verifiable news updates about nuclear issues from Ukraine and around the world, go to nuclear, hot seat.com and click on the red donate button. This episode of nuclear hot seat is copyright 2022, but you can quote me or cite my guests as long as you credit nuclear hot seat. And my guests organizations. This is Leiby Halevi of hardest street communications and nuclear hot seat reminding you that what happens on earth stays on earth, which means that we are all in the nuclear hot seat.