One step away from second Chernobyl

One step away from second Chernobyl

Sergey Savchuk

The units of the Russian army have established full control over the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in the city of Energodar. The Ukrainian media tried to deny this fact, but the IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi put an end to the false rhetoric familiar to Kyiv, saying that his organization received an official letter from Russia stating that the station was operating normally and the radiation background at the site was within normal limits.
However, no one heard Grossi’s statements, because the information broadcast was completely occupied by the current President of Ukraine Zelensky, who, in the manner of the best tragic productions, frightened the world with the “second Chernobyl disaster”, which had already practically happened due to Russia’s fault. This statement was immediately picked up by Western partners. For example, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States Representative to the UN, exacerbated the growing panic from a high podium by saying that the world narrowly escaped a nuclear catastrophe.
Both speeches operate exclusively with politically motivated emotions, and not facts. Both Zelensky and Greenfield have access to any profile information and consultations of nuclear experts, and therefore they knew for sure that neither the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, nor even the planet was in danger.
Let’s start with the fact that it was not the power unit itself that burned on the territory of the station, but a separate building of the training complex, and not entirely, but only a couple of rooms. Secondly, nothing could threaten the power unit itself and the reactors enclosed in its concrete bowels in principle.
The average layman, not versed in the intricacies of a nuclear power plant, often perceives a nuclear power plant as a kind of pot, where a terrible broth boils under the lid, and as soon as a thin wall is pierced, radioactive horror will pour into the world.
This opinion is completely wrong.
Let’s start with the fact that ZNPP is the brainchild of Soviet scientific and technical thought, and the plant has always met the most stringent industrial safety requirements. At the same time, the power plant in Energodar is still very young, especially when compared with, say, its French or American counterparts. The first power unit was connected to the grid in 1984, and the last one in 1995. The station’s six units make it the most powerful nuclear facility in Europe. Reliable water-cooled water reactors VVER-1000 with a total net power of 5.7 gigawatts have been installed and are operating on site. “Thousanders” were developed by the Kurchatov Institute and the Gidropress experimental design bur-eau, their production was launched at the Volgodonsk enterprise Atommash and Izhora Plants, in the city of Kolpino. Thousand Series Reactors, where uranium dioxide slightly enriched in the 235th isotope is used as fuel, these are the most massive nuclear power pl-ants to date. At the moment, thirty-seven VVER-1000s are operated without accidents in the world at once, and two more are being built right now in India and Iran.
We did not just digress and mention numbers and statistics.
“Thousanders” were bought and installed on their territory by many countries, because over the decades of work they have proven their absolute reliability and protection not only from the human factor, but also from almost all possible external influences. We are talking about physical and mechanical protection.
The reactors of the VVER series have a four-barrier safety system that prevents the penetration of ionizing radiation and radioactive substances into the external, that is, the environment.
The first barrier is the so-called fuel matrix, which holds the shape of the fuel pellet and prevents fission products from getting under the fuel element cladding. The mentioned shell is the second line of defense, it eliminates the risk of radioactive materials getting into the coolant (water) of the main circuit. The shell is made of corrosion-resistant nuclear-grade zirconium.
The reactor vessel, which is the third barrier, prevents the decay products from entering directly into the sealed room of the power unit. The body is made of heavy-duty steel with a thickness of 20 centimeters. A melt trap is installed directly under the reactor in a special shaft, its task is to prevent the molten radioactive mass from leaking from the core and getting into the ground in the event of an accident.
Next comes the fourth barrier, the so-called containment. In fact, these are the outer walls and the dome of the power unit, made of special concrete of such thickness that even if, in the event of an incredible set of circumstances, the first three protection barriers are broken, all the radioactive filling will remain inside the building and will not get outside.
To understand the degree of stability of the building of the reactor hall, we present a number of facts.
The containment is guaranteed to maintain its hermetic integrity during earthquakes up to eight points on the Richter scale. Again, for comparison, the 1988 Spitak earthquake, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, at the peak of its destructive power reached seven points.
The walls of the power unit will survive the flood, as well as a hurricane or a tornado with wind speeds up to 56 meters per second. The upper protective dome of the reactor hall is designed to withstand a direct hit by an aircraft weighing up to 20 tons, which is slightly less than the popular Soviet liner Tu-134 weighed.
The building can withstand internal pressure of up to five kilograms per square centimeter, and outside it is able to survive without any problems a shock wave that creates a pressure of up to 30 kilopascals.
These characteristics were achieved through the use of special prestressed concrete in construction, as well as due to metal cables stretched inside the concrete “shell”, giving the structure additional strength.
In addition to protection against purely physical impact, the VVER-1000 has a sophisticated accident prevention system. For example, in the event of a sharp jump in temperature inside the core (as happened in Chernobyl ), special tanks with boric acid are provided on the “thousanders”, which is automatically poured into the core, stopping the chain reaction and absorbing neutrons. If an excessive amount of explosive hydrogen accumulates in the reactor hall, there is a system for its removal with simultaneous recombination. There is a passive system for removing heat from under the containment, there is also a sprinkler system for spraying a solution of boric acid and steam condensation.
We have very briefly listed only the contours and barriers of protection from external and internal influences. In addition, VVER reactors use other solutions that also eliminate the human factor. For example, this is an automatic system for monitoring the radiation situation (ARMS), the sensors of which monitor radioactivity in real time – with constant data transmission to the control center.
In simple terms, in order for a man-made disaster to occur at the Zaporizhzhya NPP, which poses a threat to people and the environment, it would be necessary to detonate a low-power atomic bomb there, because all other methods of external influence would be like peas against a wall for power units.
Teams of Ukrainian and Western politicians were well aware of all of the above – if not in detail, then in general terms, absolutely definitely. But they deliberately tried to mislead the whole world and, first of all, the citizens of Ukraine, sowing panic among them because of the possibility of getting a zone of radioactive contamination near by. However, one should not be surprised here: Russophobia has no prohibited means and techniques.

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