Seizure of Ukrainian nuclear power plants: Europe’s reaction to Russia's nuclear terrorism

The full-scale war started by Russia against Ukraine affects nuclear facilities. The invaders have occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP (6 power units) and the Spent Nuclear Fuel Dry Storage Facility on its territory, the Chernobyl NPP and all nuclear facilities in the Exclusion Zone (including two storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel). In addition, the experimental nuclear facility called Source of Neutrons in Kharkiv was continuously shelled by Russian troops.

Ukraine considers the seizure of nuclear power plants to be a fact of nuclear terrorism by the Russian Federation. Ukrainian experts in the nuclear industry believe it is necessary to impose sanctions on Rosatom and exclude the Russian Federation from all nuclear associations in the world and Europe.

Kosatka.Media reached out to the European Nuclear Society (ENS) and the Brussels-based trade association for the nuclear energy industry in Europe (FORATOM) with a request to comment on the situation. 

FORATOM’s position

How does Foratom assess the actions of Russian troops at Ukrainian nuclear facilities?

It is clear that military action around the Ukrainian facilities is totally unacceptable. Furthermore, we strongly believe that the Ukrainian operator should retain responsibility for the management and operation of nuclear facilities in the country.

Should (and how should) international regulators respond? Do they have the leverage to force Russian troops to leave Ukrainian nuclear facilities?

FORATOM continues to support the proposal put forward by the IAEA for both parties to commit to the 7 principles necessary for ensuring security and safety at any nuclear facility.  

Is it possible to exclude Russia from nuclear associations and what it takes?

Given that nuclear entities are not currently subject to EU sanctions, the status quo remains. Therefore this is not something we can comment on for the time being. This being said, FORATOM does not have Russian companies directly as members of our organisation.

Why, in your opinion, are sanctions not being imposed against Rosatom and other Russian enterprises involved in the nuclear sector?

The EU has not yet imposed sanctions on any energy sources from Russia.  This is in part due to the fact that it remains dependent on such sources to meet its energy needs.

Is it possible for states to abandon cooperation with Rosatom as a deterrent?  What joint projects can not be abandoned?

Unfortunately, this is not a question that FORATOM can answer as it is up to each company to assess the status of their projects and identify whether or not they wish to (or even can) change supplier. Many individual EU Member States which engaged in nuclear projects with a Russian component have already disclosed their intentions.

Response from the European Nuclear Society

Kosatka.Media addressed the same questions to the European Nuclear Society. 

“The European Nuclear Society is a Learned society that promotes the development of nuclear science and technology and the understanding of peaceful nuclear applications. ENS is open for scientific and technical consultations. We created a small task force of experts available and able to answer all questions related to nuclear safety and security, nuclear reactors and technology operating in Ukraine, but as ENS we do not state political opinions and positions. So, we, unfortunately, have to decline your request,” the ENS replied.

At the same time, the ENS Board of Directors already held an extraordinary meeting on March 10, approving the suspension of all activities with organizations associated with the authorities of the Russian Federation and Belarus until the end of aggression in Ukraine, as well as the suspension of the membership of two of them.

“Such activities would be incompatible with the charter of the ENS, in which “The ENS commits to supporting the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, and is prepared to express this position openly in any relevant context”.

This commitment includes refraining from providing expertise or disseminating information when there is a clear or presumptive external interest in the illicit use of this expertise or information,” the ENS’s website says.

“This also includes the suspension of the corporate membership of Rosatom and Atomtech in the European Nuclear Society,” Energoatom wrote on its Telegram channel. 

The ENS also added that together with the American Nuclear Society they opened the Nuclear Workers Humanitarian Fund to support nuclear professionals and their families in Ukraine.



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