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Drone attack on Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility

  • Context (IE): Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility was attacked again amid the Ukraine-Russia war.
  • Zaporizhzhia is one of five nuclear power stations in Ukraine. Russia controls Europe’s largest facility and, for almost two years now, accused Ukraine of attacks.
  • The power station has also faced frequent shelling and mortar attacks from both sides, making it the most dangerous nuclear site in the world currently.
  • It has six power lines to run, but war has caused disruptions.

A map of ukraine with black text Description automatically generated

Safety of nuclear reactors

Strong but vulnerable

  • Most nuclear reactors are made of several layers of steel and concrete and are designed to absorb shocks from earthquakes of magnitude 8 or even higher.
  • Ordinary shelling or gunfire can’t impact them seriously. The drone attack did not cause much physical damage to the Zaporizhzhia station.
  • However, failure can’t be ruled out in case of a powerful bomb or missile attack.

Risk from power outage

  • Nuclear reactors get heated to thousands of degrees Celsius from inside & have to be constantly cooled.
  • This is usually done by a circulation of water, which is maintained through an external power source.
  • Power outages cause disruptions in it. The failure of power caused the Fukushima disaster of 2011.
  • After the Fukushima disaster, several nuclear reactors installed ‘passive’ cooling systems as an additional layer of safety. These systems do not require electricity.

Fukushima disaster of 2011

  • Though the plant survived the magnitude 9 earthquake and shut down its operations in response.
  • However, the resultant tsunami floods disabled all power lines and backup systems.
  • As a result, the facility suffered partial meltdowns and allowed the leakage of nuclear radiation.

Way forward: Seven Pillars of IAEA for nuclear plant safety

  1. Physical integrity of facilities must be maintained.
  2. All safety and security systems and equipment must be fully functional at all times.
  3. The operating staff must be able to ensure the safety of the facility without undue pressure.
  4. All nuclear sites must have a secure off-site power supply from the grid.
  5. There must be uninterrupted logistical supply chains and transportation to and from the sites.
  6. Effective on-site and off-site radiation monitoring systems, as well as emergency preparedness and response measures, must be implemented.
  7. There must be reliable communication with the regulator and others.

To know more about Nuclear energy, visit > Nuclear energy.

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