The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

War in Ukraine:
Risking another Chernobyl?

Sep 12, 2022

A U.N. inspection team visited the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant last week, to investigate the situation on the ground. The plant has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the war, though the plant’s Ukrainian staff has continued to work. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is the largest nuclear plant in Europe.

More recently, Russia has placed artillery batteries between the plant’s reactors, using the plant as protection to shell nearby Ukrainian cities. UN inspectors noted that the plant has been hit by artillery; one worker was injured by an artillery strike. The power lines by which the plant supplies electricity to Ukraine’s power grid have been damaged by artillery strikes in recent weeks.

To prevent the nuclear core from melting down, as happened in the Chernobyl disaster, cool water must be run over the reactors continuously. Right now, one of the plant’s reactors is being used to keep the others cool—but the plant was not designed to do that for long. There is a diesel backup system, but that could only run for a few days—and imagine how hard it might be to bring several tanks of diesel fuel every day through a war zone.

Adding to the grave risk is the stress and fatigue of the plant’s staff. They do work that is stressful in peacetime, but now in front of armed Russian troops. Many have been interrogated and some report being tortured.

With the Russian artillery “shielded” this way by the Zaporizhzhia nuclear station, both sides risk an enormous disaster, like the one that took place in Chernobyl in the 80’s, or at Fukushima ten years ago. And this would take place in a war zone! Experts say a meltdown would destroy a huge portion of Ukraine’s most fertile farmland. The U.N.’s Chinese inspector said he had hoped the belligerents would stop their shelling during the inspection. They did not.

Both the Russians and Ukrainians have placed for example, an artillery battery in a school, or a command post in a hospital. Amnesty International cited Ukraine 29 times for deploying its troops in or near residential neighborhoods—though never rich ones; the chalets and resorts of the wealthy have been spared. Both Ukraine and Russia are willing to use civilians as “human shields,” and thus show their contempt for the ordinary population.

This is what warfare means under capitalism—rolling the dice and risking the lives and health of thousands for the politics of imperialism.