To Make It in 90 Seconds: Is the World at Risk of a Second Chornobyl?

Photo: Today marks the anniversary of Chornobyl. Source: Collage The Gaze by Leonid Lukashenko.

Today marks the anniversary of Chornobyl. On the night of April 26, 1986, after two thermal explosions, the fourth reactor of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant collapsed. The partial destruction of the RBMK reactor, known as “Reaktor Bolshoy Moshchnosti Kanalny,” resulted in an explosion equivalent to 300 Hiroshimas.

The cause was the structural peculiarities of the facility itself – according to the updated IAEA report from 2010, the reactor was poorly designed and turned out to be dangerous. Scientists were not supposed to conduct experiments on such equipment.

However, today, April 26, 2024, we live in a much more dangerous world.

More Frightening Than a Hydrogen Bomb

The Doomsday Clock has been maintained by the American journal Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947. It shows how close we are to midnight, meaning a global catastrophe. Currently, considering Russian aggression, we are closer than ever – the clock stands at 23:58:30.

Ninety seconds to midnight, which, quoting Alan Moore’s “Watchmen,” “heralds the end of humanity in a global nuclear catastrophe.”

The board of directors of the journal and involved experts – including Nobel laureates – set this time in 2023, initially. In 1953, after the hydrogen bomb tests, the clock showed 2 minutes to disaster.

But by January 2023, many events had already occurred – an act of nuclear terrorism against Ukraine, a direct armed attack on nuclear energy infrastructure.

On March 3, 2022, at 23:28, a column of 10 units of Russian armored vehicles and two tanks approached the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. On March 4, the battle began – Russian troops used rocket-propelled grenades.

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By March 12, 2022, the Russian authorities declared that the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia NPP belonged to “Rosatom.”

Currently, Ukrainian personnel are effectively held hostage there, continuing to operate the station under Russian control.

Russians openly threaten the world with nuclear war – Dmitry Medvedev occasionally does this, propagandists shout about it, and ultimately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks about it.

“We see serious strategic risks leading to an increased level of nuclear danger… The West dangerously balances on the brink of direct military confrontation between nuclear states, threatening catastrophic consequences,” Lavrov recently stated.

He says this despite the fact that Russians have escalated tensions practically from the outset. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin put Russian strategic nuclear weapons on alert as early as 2022. And then the Kremlin transferred nuclear weapons to Belarus, thus violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Ukraine is the only non-nuclear country in this treaty. It relinquished the third-largest nuclear potential in the world and signed the guarantees of the Budapest Memorandum, which it steadfastly adhered to. Currently, its guarantees are being violated by the guarantor country: Russia.

Energy Terrorism

Of course, attacking Ukraine with intercontinental missiles is inconvenient because their flight range is too great, and ballistic missiles from submarines are traceable.

However, unfortunately, part of long-range aviation is now, in practice, shelling Ukraine with non-nuclear missiles to destroy energy infrastructure, which may also be linked to nuclear threats.

A direct attack with nuclear weapons would be complete suicide for Putin. However, indirectly, anything is possible.

Russia has been attacking Ukrainian energy facilities since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Initially, it was oil depots to disrupt fuel supply logistics. When Ukraine redirected gasoline and diesel supply routes, a new phase of the Russian terrorist strategy began.

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Specifically on electricity, the occupiers concentrated their efforts in the autumn of 2022: then they started shelling the substations of the transmission system operator and generation facilities. By early 2023, there was not a single hydroelectric or thermal power station in Ukraine that had not been shelled at least once.

At that time, distribution devices of NPPs were first shelled, which prevented the Rivne and Khmelnytskyi stations from supplying power to the grid.

Then, in winter, people lived by power outage schedules. Businesses and citizens began importing petrol and diesel generators – experts estimate their total capacity at one gigawatt.

It seems they will soon be needed again, as Russians resumed attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure at the end of winter but changed tactics. Now they are concentrating efforts on specific regions, including Kharkiv Oblast, systematically destroying their generation. They simultaneously struck Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Station with missiles and almost completely destroyed all thermal power plants. Summer is approaching, with planned maintenance of nuclear power units ahead, and consumption will increase due to refrigerators and air conditioners.

“The enemy has destroyed almost all thermal energy. Under enemy fire are hydroelectric power stations and gas infrastructure. Attacks on NPP infrastructure are not excluded, so Ukraine needs modern air defense systems,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Can a country that caused a nuclear power plant explosion with its experiments carry out an act of nuclear terrorism and strike NPPs again? The answer is quite obvious: it’s entirely possible, all it takes is finding a pretext.

Cynicism abounds. Let’s remember Chornobyl. After the accident, a radioactive cloud formed, covering modern Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, as well as almost all of Europe, reaching Britain and beyond to the Isle of Man.

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The Soviet Union was in no hurry to share information about its failure, neither with its own population nor with other countries. Russia, as the successor of the USSR, has inherited those same habits. They engage in operations under a false flag – indeed, several times Russians shelled the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, accusing Ukraine of the shelling.

They attack civilian objects – power plants. In particular, NPPs.

Only air defense systems can protect them because Russians shoot at everything, from “Kinzhals” to “Iskanders” and “Zircons,” and, of course, they don’t forget about Iranian “Shaheds.” Ukraine’s allies have only 90 seconds left to protect the world from nuclear apocalypse. 


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