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Enerhodar: summary of position late August 2022



UPDATE 12 SEPTEMBER 2022


We have received reports, corroborated by Reuters, that the entire nuclear power facility at Enerhodar is now closed down. That is to say, all six nuclear reactors have been closed off and are now 'cold' (i.e. there is no fission in any of them).


https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/zaporizhzhia-nuclear-power-plants-shutdown-2022-09-12/


Given the on-off electricity problems, this is probably a good thing.


Now the plant is shut, we will cease to update this article as Enerhodar appears now only to be a military target, not a nuclear disaster risk


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UPDATE 9 SEPTEMBER 2022


The following comprehensive, detailed and reliable article on the IAEA's current assessment of the situation at Enerhodar takes some concentration to understand in all its details, but is a good summary of the current situation:


https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/09/offsite-power-supply-to-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-plant-destroyed


This article corroborates and is worth reading separately:


https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-russia-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-plant-b2163943.html


The bottom line is that notwithstanding any hortatory resolutions that the IAEA Governing Board might be about to make on a political 'one member state one vote' basis, Enerhodar is now going to be permanently closed.


That is because the lack of reliable electricity to operate the comprehensive water cooling facilities needed for the reactor cores (only one out of six is left functioning) and decommissioned uranium fuel rods means that there is a constant risk of a reactor fire and/or of a uranium fuel rod fire, generating a pumping of radioactive and toxic substances into the atmosphere and creating both an exclusion zone and a nuclear wind.


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05:30 EET 7 SEPTEMBER 2022


In the early hours of this morning the BBC and Reuters reported that the IAEA's report was public and online:


https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62805120


https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/iaea-report-ukraine-says-situation-zaporizhzhia-not-sustainable-2022-09-06/


https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/22/09/ukraine-2ndsummaryreport_sept2022.pdf


At the time of writing these words the IAEA report has 52 pages including annexes and 175 numbered paragraphs not including annexes. It does not contain a date of authorship. The document cannot be linked to from the IAEA website at this moment but this may change.


It is probably a fair inference that this was a 'rushed job'; the evidence suggests that it was received at least in part by the newswires before it was published on the IAEA website (see below). In an ideal world things would have taken place the other way round.


Nevertheless we are pleased that the IAEA report has now been published even if, to the best of our knowledge at this very juncture, the only links to it are from our website (above) and from the BBC and Reuters articles we cite. We would hope that broader distribution will take place from start of business on 7 September 2022. (Note: by COB EET 7 September 2022 this had still not taken place; the only links to the report we could easily find remained on this webpage and on the BBC and Reuters webpages, and it was not obvious how to click through to the report from the IAEA's homepage. However the PDF document could be found on a Google search for 'IAEA Report Zaporizhzhia'. 18:45 EET 7 Sep 22. We will not provide any more updates on this issue.)


We shall see to what extent the parties argue over the report's contents; note the Russian observations already made about it (link to those comments below).


We commend the IAEA for publishing this document in admittedly hasty circumstances for which they can surely be forgiven.


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23:59 EET 6 SEPTEMBER 2022


IAEA press releases on the situation at Enerhodar are being published here:


https://www.iaea.org/news?type=3243


It is asserted that there is an IAEA 'report', but it is not known whether this is a separate document from the IAEA's press releases. The media are not providing links to a report. See e.g.::


https://www.ft.com/content/28a17472-5ab7-4e87-b075-0bf6353fad33


Update 98 of the IAEA says that on Tuesday 6 September the IAEA will issue a report;.but that report does not so far appear to be publicly available


https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/update-98-iaea-director-general-statement-on-situation-in-ukraine


It is also rather odd to observe that the Russian Federation has published official remarks about a report that hasn't been published:


https://www.rt.com/russia/562326-nebenzia-rogov-zaporozhye-iaea/


This is getting rather silly, and obviously the report - presumably distributed to UN Security Council members - needs to be published so that we can all see what it says.


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UPDATE 2 SEPTEMBER 2022


The IAEA says the physical integrity of the Enerhodar site has been violated. What they mean by this is that there has been a substantial leak of poisonous radioactive fissile materials into the air, potentially creating a nuclear wind of radioactive filth that may drift in some direction depending on prevailing wind directions at the time.


https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/02/ukraine-zaporizhzhia-power-plant-physical-integrity-violated-un-nuclear-chief-says


It seems that the Ukrainians remain very hostile to the IAEA mission, that has promised to publish its report; whereas Russia is very welcoming of the inspectors. That's not very Russian. There must be a reason for this.


Ukrainian shelling of Enerhodar appears to have stopped as a result of the IAEA inspectors' presence, which is certainly a good thing.


Western and Ukrainian journalists have not been permitted access to Enerhodar with the IAEA team; they were turned back by the Russians. Hence to speak to the Russian media the IAEA can remain in Enerhodar; to speak to the Ukrainian and western media the IAEA needs to return to the city of Zaporizhzhia some 60km to the northeast (which they are doing for this purpose).


IAEA representatives are taking accommodation in the hotel in Enerhodar (there is only one), which would suggest that at the current time radiation levels at the site are within tolerable limits.


We suspect that one of the things the IAEA inspectors' are discovering is that Rosatom and Energoatom (the Ukrainian version) are and always have been for all practical purposes one and the same entity. In other words the Russians have always been running Enerhodar, ever since Ukraine's declared independence from Russia in 1991.


4 September 2022


It is confirmed that only one nuclear reactor remains functional and the site has been disconnected almost entirely from Ukraine's national grid.


https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62782497


The immediate future of the site is surely its being mothballed.


We commend the IAEA inspectors' for their courage and for their apparently firm hand in a complex situation.


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UPDATE 1 SEPTEMBER 2022 16:00 EET


https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-europe-62748668


After some delay the IAEA is reported as having arrived in Enerhodar amidst heavy shelling and fighting between the sides including barges launched from Nikopol and sunk; and helicopters strafing averred military positions in the area. Another of the six nuclear reactors was reported to have been turned off this morning, making five in total now shut down.


https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/ukraine-nuclear-reactor-shut-down-due-shelling-operator-says-2022-09-01/


It appears that the site was again disconnected from the electricity for a period today Thursday 1 September 2022, that if sustained would risk a reactor fire as the water cooling systems for such reactors as remain online (perhaps now only one). We are told by Ukrainian authorities that the site was reconnected to the electricity later in the day, although the details are far from certain.


https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62692222?fbclid=IwAR13v0l2jwigoBvO5TFtwEsl4DgDH1SyDG_RPexSRofmRP_BQjarQ77B85k

(See the second article in this chain.)


We wish the IAEA good luck and stay safe. The Ukrainians and Russians appear jointly to be making the environment as hellish as possible for the IAEA to visit. Presumably they have also been cleaning the place up pending the IAEA's inspection. Their method of cleaning up appears to be to destroy everything through intense fighting.


Consistently with our own experiences, the Russians seem keener on this IAEA mission reaching Enerhodar than do the Ukrainians:


https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2022/sep/01/russia-ukraine-war-no-quick-wins-in-kherson-zelenskiy-adviser-says-nuclear-inspectors-due-at-zaporizhzhia-plant-live


We're not quite sure why this is; but we speculate that the Ukrainians are of the view that demonstrable coordination on their parts with Russia over both civilian and military nuclear matters - which is what the evidence so far seems to suggest - is more damaging to the Ukrainian position than it is to the Russian.


We note the following article, which confirms that the Director General of the IAEA has been giving a statement apparently exclusively to Russian media:


https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-europe-62748668


It appears that the IAEA will be present in Enerhodar until Saturday; and a permanent presence will be established there, which should stop the Russians and Ukrainians blowing everything up. We commend this approach.


Whatever conclusions the IAEA reaches, we urge that they be made public in total. No information should be withheld. The people resident in the region have a right to know whatever is discovered, because their health and welfare are at issue. Moreover the abuse of Enerhodar as a massive nuclear facility by both sides in the pursuit of regional geopolitics in something it is in the public interest to be generally known.


We believe that the Director General of the IAEA believed that when he announced at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos this January that an IAEA inspection had revealed 70,000 MT of weapons-grade materiel at the site last year. Long may that culture of transparency continue.


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28 AUGUST 2022


Following our three earlier articles on Enerhodar,


Enerhodar Tales


What's going on at Enerhodar?


and


Атомный ветер Энергодар: советы киевлянам, николаевцам и херсонцам (in Russian)


we are now in a position to draw a number of conclusions.


  1. Soon after Russia occupied Enerhodar on 4 March 2022,. She began a process of decommissioning all the nuclear reactors at Enerhodar, as well as the thermal (coal) reactor.

  2. The most likely reason they did this was because they realised it was very dangerous to keep Europe's biggest nuclear reactor complex operational in the middle of a war zone. It needed - and needs - to be turned off.

  3. They also likely realised the inherent weakness in the entire Enerhodar complex infrastructure, namely that the power station complex is built on the wrong bank of the Kakhovka Reservoir (the south bank) where there is no infrastructur (but there is a good natural harbour and it is a long way from habitation). Hence the water cooling necessary to prevent the complex from melting down relies upon a series of delicate wires overhanging the reservoir on precarious pylon structures, called the Enerhodar Dnipr Power Crossing, that connects Enerhodar to Ukraine's northbank infrastructure. In the event of an armed conflict those wires would surely break sooner or later - and indeed that is what came to pass

  4. Hence Russia's intentions for Enerhodar from Day 1 were likely to decommission the site in its entirety and use it as a military garrison.

  5. Russia started decommissioning. She has decommissioned four nuclear reactors and a coal fired reactor on the same site when Ukrainian longer-range artillery (perhaps that provided by NATO states) start hitting Russian positions in Enerhodar in mid-August 2022.

  6. The way Russia had been decommissioning the nuclear reactors at Enerhodar was rather rudimentary: she had been taking the still-fissioning nuclear rods and throwing them in an open gravel pit surrounded by sand in the lower part of the site, and then sluicing them with water until they cooled down and stopped fissioning. What she plans (planned) to do with them next is anyone's guess, because normally there would be an extended process of placing the (still very hot) uranium rods out of harm's way.

  7. When Ukrainian shelling knocked out the Enerhodar Dnipr Power Crossing in late August 2022, the Enerhodar site has a backup diesel generator, as the Ukrainians well knew. So pending reconnection of Enerhodar to one or the other national grid (it seems the Russian, because the Enerhodar Dnipr Powerline Crossing has not been restored) there would be no nuclear meltdown as the water would still flow to the nuclear reactors powered by the diesel generator.

  8. However what the Ukrainians overlooked (perhaps because they did not know) was that the hydraulics of the open gravel / sand pit decommissioning spot for still-fissioning uranium power rods removed by the Russians as part of the decommissioning process of the nuclear reactors were not connected to the diesel generator's circuits.

  9. Hence the water ran out and a nuclear fire of an unknown number of fissioning Uranium power rods broke out in the open gravel / sand pit. To the best of our knowledge efforts to extinguish that fire remain outstanding. The fire still burns.

  10. No effort has been made to calculate an exclusion zone in respect of this nuclear fire or the size or direction of an invisible nuclear wind harming all human animal and plant life in its way; but it seems possible that the nuclear wind will be substantial and, given the prevailing winds, may easily reach as far as Kyiv, Nikolaev and Kherson, jeopardising millions of lives and/or livelihoods.

  11. All potentially affected regions and cities need to start undertaking immediate precautions to minimise the risk of damage by a nuclear wind. This is likely to cause disruption to the food chain and supplies, and hence panic amongst the civilian population and potential starvation.

  12. Still further refugee columns may start moving west as a result.

  13. Constant vigilance and warnings need to be conveyed to the relevant civilian populations. We also do not know how far any nuclear wind may spread; or how intense it may be. Ukraine needs a massive import of Geiger Counters, and she may need substantial other measures of international assistance as well to deal with this unfolding new crisis.

  14. Whatever the origin of the 40,0000kg of weapons grade uranium and 30,000kg of weapons grade plutonium found at Enerhodar in 2021 (possibly the largest storage of thermonuclear warhead materiel in the world)- and we may assume it came from Russia with the connivance of the Ukrainians before the war began - we may assume it has now all been taken away again by the Russians. That is because the Russians were contemplating dropping a tactical thermonuclear warhead on Enerhodar to close it; and they would presumably not have been considering that option if proceeding in this way would have resulted in what in effect would have been the world's largest ever hydrogen bomb in the middle of central Europe.

  15. If the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ever gets there, presumably they won't be shown the open gravel pits flaming with fissioning uranium, nor indeed the remnants of a massive Ukrainian-Russian joint thermonuclear warhead production scheme.


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