'Ten times more powerful than Chernobyl'
24 AUGUST 2022
The themes in this article are continued in a new article, 'What's going on at Enerhodar'.
19 AUGUST 2022
We are informed that only two of the six water-cooled nuclear reactors are operative. The other four have been shut down.
The adjacent thermal (coal fired) reactor has also been shut down.
The Russian strategy may be eventually to close the entire site.
07:00 EET 19 AUGUST 2022
It is a fair guess that if the Russians were going to destroy Enerhodar then they would have done it by now.
Presumably a deal is being worked out. We may or may not find out in due course what it is.
If there is one lesson to learn from this, it is the importance of constant diplomacy during war, just as Bismarck taught us.
A SHORT HISTORY LESSON
History is always important, if only to capture its foolishness and to realise how this foolishness repeats itself.
The Enerhodar complex, an inherently astoundingly dangerous idea (six mammoth water cooled nuclear reactors placed within spitting distance each of the other so that a reactor fire at one would be highly likely to precipitate a reactor fire at some or all of the others) was the brainchild of 1980's Soviet Premier Yuriy Andropov, whose reasoning was that placing the Soviet Union's biggest power plant complex in Ukraine rather than in Russia would create an economic incentive for the Soviet Union not to break up.
This was an error typical of comminist-style command economies. If a federal or imperial territory is at risk of breaking up, it is typically be because the country's central economy is disintegrating. In such circumstances, the displacement of major industrial assets outside their centrifugue of economic operation catalyzes post-division territorial and economic conflicts, not mitigates them. That is because the superior economic territory takes the view that it ha the right to the superior economic asset, whereas the inferior territory wants to hang onto what historical happenstance provided to it.
Hence the very first thing Russia did in her 2022 invasion of Ukraine was to seize Enerhodar before anyone had even noticed it. Eventually Ukraine realised it was better to destroy the facility rather than not have it; and Russia therefore decided to flatten it to take it out of the equation.
This lesson was also learned the hard way in communist Yugoslavia; long-term Premier Josip Broz Tito built many industrial complexes across artificial internal borders, with a view to making Yugoslavia indivisible. The net result was to make these sites epicentres of conflict when Yugoslavia tore itself apart for ethno-poverty reasons.
Command economies are a bad idea for many reasons; but this is a major one.
UPDATE #2, 18 AUGUST 2022
The Russians have deployed Mig-35's with hypersonic cruise missiles with inertial guidance mechanisms to Chernyakhovsk Military Airbase in the Kaliningrad oblast of Russia, a militarised portion of territory wedged between Poland and Lithuania, to destroy Enerhodar. Also it seems that ship-launched hypersonic cruise missiles are being prepared for strikes initiated in the Black sea.
We cannot exclude that these hypersonic cruise missiles (probably the Kalibr class) carry tactical nuclear warheads.
We hope that President Putin has done his nuclear physics on this. We don't know what happens if you strike a series of water-cooled nuclear reactors with high explosive or tactical nuclear warheads. We hope somebody advising the Russian President does.
This doesn't look very good. If President Erdogan of Turkey is in Ukraine (in L'viv, a long way from Enerhodar which we would not blame him for) and is worried, it's not good.
This photo taken on the evening of 18 August 2022 is particularly bad, not least because it will provoke the Russians:
We trust that the world's diplomats are working on this problem with the Russians overnight. We may wake up tomorrow to a major European nuclear strike. Let us pray not. Now is the time for the diplomats to earn their salaries.
UPDATE 18 AUGUST 2022
An intelligence source informed us that there is already a reactor fire at Enerhodar, and it is being covered up, notwithstanding the now blanket media reporting asserting grave danger. According to our source, the catastrophe has already begun and unless a team specialised in managing water based nuclear reactor fires begins work immediately we are facing the world's worst nuclear disaster with unknown consequences.
It has been reported that the Russian armed forces are planning to destroy the entire site, as some sort of mitigation strategy. Obviously we cannot assess the accuracy of this assertion. It is a matter solely for the Russian President and not for anyone else. Presumably he has experts advising him upon the possibility of this truly extraordinary possible course of action.
In the meantime one can read between the lines in the following articles:
UPDATE 14 AUGUST 2022
The Ukrainian side has acknowledged that it is responsible for the shelling attacks on Enerhodar, asserting that Enerhodar nuclear facility is a legitimate military target due to the presence of Russian forces there.
It seems only a matter of time before a Ukrainian artillery strike causes a reactor fire, nuclear meltdown and the biggest nuclear disaster in world history.
It is too early to speculate what the geopolitical consequences of this might be, but some sort of escalation appears plausible in the event of a reactor fire. Military mistakes might be made by any side amidst a state of panic. The necessary emergency crews to cap the reactors whose concrete domes had fractured might not be able to obtain access to the reactor site. While that was negotiated, uncontrolled reactor fires might be spewing out radioactive and toxic fission by-products over an extended period, rendering the area inside the circumference where those emissions land unihabitable potentially permanently. The longer the reactor fires continued, the greater the potential permanent exclusion zone.
Once they did reach the site, the emergency responders seeking to cap the reactor fires would likely all receive fatal doses of radiation, causing them to die of radiatio sickness within a few days, as happened in Chernobyl.
Palpably the immediate coercive diplomacy encouraged in this article (see below) has not taken place or has not been successful.
The IAEA are still complaining of inadequate access to the site. The source of their hindrance is unknown.
UPDATE 9 AUGUST 2022
IAEA officials are reported as being unable currently to obtain access to the Enerhodar site. It is unclear which side's officials or armed forces are responsible for denying them entrance.
The Ukrainian government in Kyiv is demanding that Enerhodar become an internationalised 'demilitarised zone' occupied by foreign peacekeepers as a condition of their ceasing artillery and missile attacks upon the reactor complex. This seems unrealistic, in the midst of a complex civil conflict in a territory in which Enerhodar is right at the centre, both geographically and in terms of the military front line.
The current rocket attacks on Enerhodar do not seem directed at the reactors themselves but rather at other structures on the site. Nevertheless a missile that missed its target might strike a reactor, and hence what is going on at Enerhodar is an extremely dangerous game of brinkmanship.
We repeat our calls for coercive diplomacy to prevent the missile based attacks on Enerhodar, something which so far does not appear to have taken place.
The following article describes events in some detail but we make no warranties about its accuracy on any particular point it makes.
UPDATE 7 AUGUST 2022
High explosive warheads are being fired at the nuclear reactors and at other buildings within the reactor compound.
It is reported that Russian armed forces are using Enerhodar as a munitions dump and storage area for armour.
The purpose of doing so is surely to deter Ukrainian armed forces, armed with NATO-supplied longer range ballistic missiles, from striking these ammunition dumps and armour repositories with those ballistic missiles, on the basis that to do so would cause nuclear catastrophe as a missile impacted upon one of the reactors and precipitated a nuclear fire that would in all possibility spread to all six of the site's nuclear reactors.
And it seems that the Ukrainians have been calling their bluff.
Unless this stops immediately (and that seems unlikely absent direct White House intervention with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy's office), there will be a reactor fire; a large-scale nuclear disaster; the pumping of toxic and radioactive uranium fuel side products into the air and left to scatter over an adjacent radius of some 30km (the Chernobyl exclusion zone radius) or even more.
This would also shut off the power for large tracts of Ukraine, as well as potentially render the proximate cities of Zaporizhzhiya and Dnipropetrovsk uninhabitable. It might also pollute the water supply to Kherson, a Russian-occupied city that sits on the Dniepr delta to the southwest.
Immediate coercive and aggressive diplomacy is required on the part of western nations to prevent Ukraine from firing ordinance at the Enerhodar facility that eventually will, if maintained, lead to multiple reactor fires at Enerhodar destroying much of central Ukraine and comprising the biggest nuclear disaster in history.
This should be the West's top current priority in its diplomatic engagements in Ukraine.
UPDATE 6 AUGUST 2022
The IAEA is now reported to share our view of imminent nuclear catastrophe at Enerhodar.
UPDATE 3 AUGUST 2022
The IAEA, having finally obtained access to Enerhodar, has confirmed that the reactor site appears to be approaching some sort of enormous. Nuclear meltdown.
Were Enerhodar to melt down, this would be the world's largest ever nuclear catastrophe and, standing at 25 per cent of Ukraine's entire electricity capacity, would devastate the country's National Grid. Large parts of Ukraine might be plunged into darkness and/or subject to electricity rationing of the severest kind.
Presumably if there is a nuclear meltdown, both the cities of Zaporizhzhiya and Dnipropetrovsk may fall into the nuclear fallout exclusion zone, and they will need to be evacuated, creating in excess of a further one million refugees or internally displaced persons.
UPDATE 23 MAY 2022
There are currently two Mayors of Enerhodar: one Russian and one Ukrainian. The governance structure is highly opaque.
On 22 May 2022 the Russian Mayor was injured in a blast at his residence in the outskirts of Enerhodar and is reported as currently in hospital. It is not clear what caused the blast; what his injuries were; or what the current de facto governance structure of Enerhodar really is. Nor is it clear in which hospital he is being treated
The Ukrainian Mayor appears to be caring for the welfare of the Russian Mayor.
Before you read this article, which is about impending nuclear disaster in Ukraine and the plunging of central and northern Ukrainian cities into darkness as their electricity supplies are cut off, you need to read all the following articles carefully:
Now here are the facts.
In early March 2022 Russian forces quickly seized Enerhodar nuclear power station, the largest power station in Europe built by the Soviets in the 1980's, as part of a quick land grab of Zaporizhzhiya oblast in south-central Ukraine. The power station is on the south bank of the Kakhovka reservoir, part of the Dniepr river, in central Ukraine.
In the course of seizing the power plant, Russian forces fired what were probably Tochka-U short-range hypersonic tactical ballistic missiles with high-explosive warheads (typical maximum detonation temperature 11,000 C) into the reactor concrete linings.
Then the Russians sealed off the area as a nuclear accident exclusion zone and a whole bunch of Russian nuclear scientists working for the Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom were sent into Enerhodar, using Ukrainian civilian workers as cattle, for God knows what purpose.
Now the Russians are threatening, unless the Ukrainians can pay a huge amount of money they are unable to pay in unpaid energy bills owed to Russia, to disconnect Enerhodar from the Ukrainian national grid - easy, because most of the electricity from Enerhodar crosses to the north bank of the reservoir via the Enerhodar Dniepr Powerline Crossing, a virtually unique structure which one of our earlier articles above describes. Instead, they say, they will connect Enerhodar to the Russian national grid.
Of course Russia does not need any more electricity; it is one or the most hydrocarbon self-sufficient nations in the world. Hence the question of whether connecting Enerhodar to the Russian national grid is logistically possible is somewhat artificial - that is not the point.
Instead the point is to cut the Enerhodar Dniepr Powerline Crossing, something the Russians can do with the flick of a switch at Enerhodar.
This will black out completely the proximate free Ukrainian cities of Zaporizhzhiya (awash with refugees from the East and South) and Dniepropetrovsk, slightly to the north of Zaporizhzhiya, that rely 100 per cent for Enerhodar electricity. The electricity cut will also have unimaginable blackout consequences as far as Kyiv and L'viv.
The Ukrainians have no military capacity to retake Russian seized territory south of the Dniepr River and the Kakhovka reservoir; and even if they did,it would risk reactor fires at the site's six nuclear reactors and the world's biggest nuclear disaster in history.
There are two practical options, short of giving billions of US Dollars in financial assistance intended for Ukraine direct to the Russian treasury on an extortion basis. One is that the Russians do somehow manage to connect Enerhodar to the Russian national grid (or at least the grids of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics). The other is that Enerhodar is shut down completely: a complex task that changes entirely the balance of power between Russia and Ukraine.
We suspect that the Russians wish to keep Enerhodar nuclear plant going, to provide electricity to the steel and coal rich Donbass region the remainder of which they are in the (if gradual and haphazard) process of occupying.
Hence we suspect that the Rosatom scientists have indeed found a way of connecting Enerhodar to the DPR and LPR electricity grids, at the very least, such that they feel comfortable now cutting the Enerhodar Dniepr Powerline Crossing without needing to turn off six nuclear reactors.
It seems to us that in order to connect Enerhodar to the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples' Republics electricity grid systems one needs a series of cables that run Enerhodar-Melitopol-Mariupol-Donetsk. This sounds relatively easy; all these territories are under solid Russian control. Moreover part or more of the infrastructure may pre-exist as part of what we used to call the Ukrainian national grid before the country's partition. Alternatively the Russians may have been constructing and laying the cables behind our backs in Russian-occupied territory.
If the Ukrainians seek to retake Enerhodar by force, the Russians simply dynamite the lot and create the largest nuclear accident exclusion zone in history. It might well reach Zaporizhzhiya, the closest city, resolving the problem of how to seize Zaporizhzhiya from free Ukrainian forces: the city will self-depopulate under the shadow of a mushroom cloud.
Finally, ask why Russia is turning off gas supplies to Finland. The reason is not some nonsense political issue about Finland joining NATO - Turkey has already vetoed it and the NATO Treaty requires unanimity for admission of new members. Instead it is because Nordstream, a major Russian gas pipeline that could be used to prop up Ukraine and Poland indirectly in the absence of direct Russian energy supplies, runs through southern Finland. Finland is not the point. Subjugation of Ukraine (and to a lesser extent Poland) is.
There are not many good options here.
As the Russians would say, Шах. Is it Шах и мат? Only time will tell. But the west needs a damned ingenious solution soon, or we lose half of Ukraine.
So here are some options:
Use a Nimitz class US carrier strike fleet to close the straits of Bosphorous. Under Article 2 of the Montreux Convention regulating the international use of the straits of Bosphorous, it is legitimate for a nation to blockade the straits to merchant and civilian vessels during times of war.
So we cut off all Russian vessel-based hydrocarbon supplies.
The Turks will be furious with us. But really so what? They have shown their colours by vetoing NATO accession for Sweden and Finland.
Then there are a series of gas pipelines to close down.
Poland-Belarus should not be too hard, although we will have to pay the Poles to do it.
Ukraine-Slovakia should be easy. We simply instruct the Ukrainians to close it.
Moldova-Romania will involve paying the Romanians.
Then we close down the Russian oil pipelines.
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan: the Georgians can help us with that. Again they will want paying.
Tikhoretsk to Samsun in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Israelis can help us with this.
Finally there is the Southern Druzhba pipeline from Ukraine to Slovakia and Hungary. We order the Ukrainians to close it.
At this point, don't things start to look Шах и мат in favour of the west? As soon as we have closed as many of these routes as is possible, we invite the Russians for negotiations.