A lot of Ukrainians have raised questions regarding the possible scale of a Russian-induced disaster. What makes the question even more pressing is that the memories of the Chornobyl catastrophe are still relatively fresh in Ukraine. However it is not possible to assess what Russia is capable of doing, it is possible to compare security measures in Zaporizhzhya to those in Chornobyl and Fukushima.
After the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan, which was caused by an earthquake and a tsunami wave, all European countries performed ‘stress tests’ of their nuclear power plants as part of a joint review of nuclear security.
Ukraine joined this process and in December of 2011 the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine released the results of these tests. It was assessed that the changes introduced in Ukraine’s nuclear power plants exclude the possibility of a disaster such as the one that happened in Japan.
In particular, hydrogen conversion systems have been designed to prevent the reactor from exploding even in the face of the loss of power, loss of coolant fluid, and earthquakes and other adverse circumstances.
Apart from that it is important to analyse the differences between the reactors in Chornobyl and Zaporizhzhya. Unlike Chernobyl, Zaporizhzhya features pressurised (VVER) water reactors with containment structures to prevent radiation leaks.
According to a Bloomberg report, emergency core cooling systems are in place alongside several injection systems to prevent a core meltdown. The reactors are also protected by thick metal and cement shells that are built to withstand an aircraft crash or an air bomb attack. Even if there was a meltdown, security measures would likely keep the effects of the fallout within the facility.
According to journalist Chris Young, it is unlikely that we would see a scenario similar to Chornobyl, where 350,000 people had to be evacuated.