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People and Planet: Implications of Russia’s Fight for Nuclear Power Plants

Russian president Vladimir Putin is being more reckless in his fight for Ukraine than many anticipated, throwing young men who expected military training onto the frontlines in Russia and pushing Ukrainian citizens to take up arms due to the sheer size of Russia’s military. He is bombing Ukranian civilians and literally playing with explosives, subjecting millions to his blindly nihilistic rampage towards power. 

Although Ukrainian citizens have done an extraordinary job of combating Russian forces, it seems unlikely that Ukraine will be able to stave off Russia’s military much longer. Until recently, the road to the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant had been blocked by Ukranians in an attempt to fend off further Russian damage to the facility after the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, reported that Russia had taken control of the area. 

On Friday, February 25, Russian forces seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, holding workers hostage. Since then, the radiation levels within the area have risen above the control point. Russian interest in obtaining nuclear power plants continues, as Russian forces are now attacking another nuclear plant in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. 

The Zaporizhzhia plant has already had various safety issues prior to Russia’s invasion, such as its susceptibility to electrical power outages and concerns over the site’s storage of spent nuclear fuel, which could have detrimental effects now that it is being shelled.

 If Russian forces were to cause another nuclear disaster in Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia particularly, vast portions of Ukraine would be left uninhabitable for decades, causing a massive ecological disaster. This would have catastrophic effects in not only Ukraine, but also Russia and even a large portion of Europe. 

At this point, the world has only seen two major nuclear disasters. The first occurred in Chernobyl, Ukraine (then part of the USSR) in 1986 and the second in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. In Chernobyl, the initial death toll immediately following the accident was 50, but exposure to radiation from the event resulted in 93,000 deaths across Europe which occurred due to radiation syndrome and cancer brought on by the explosion.

Only a short while ago, Putin’s intentions in seizing control over the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia plants was unclear yet ominous. Now that the shelling of the plant has begun, it is clear that Putin has sunk historically low as Russian forces purposefully shelled the largest nuclear plant in Europe. As in all wars, the man giving orders to his military will feel no impact of his actions while civilians of both Ukraine and Russia will suffer. 

It is pertinent that Putin ends his attack on Ukraine before even more civilians have to bear the burden of his actions, before even more young people die fighting, before any other Ukrainian civilian feels compelled to pick up a weapon and defend their homeland. Unfortunately, this is a nearly impossible reality for the time being.

Meg Diehl is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug.

Meg Diehl

Assistant Opinion Editor

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