On August 5, missiles hit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Although no radioactive leaks were detected, experts have warned fighting near the plant poses a major safety risk. The Sme daily talked about the situation with nuclear physicist MARTIN VENHART from the Slovak Academy of Sciences.
Is there a risk of a radioactive leak if the power plant is shelled or bombed?
Certainly, although it depends on what has been hit, the type of ammunition, and the intensity of shelling. Damaging a reactor vessel itself so much that there is a leak is extremely unlikely. These are very robust structures and are built to withstand direct hit by an aircraft. I am not saying there is no ammunition that would breach the vessel, but it is difficult and it would have to be a targeted strike. The supporting infrastructure that the power plant needs for its safety is also at risk. In addition, spent nuclear fuel is located in an area that is usually not as protected as the reactor itself.
What might happen if this supporting infrastructure was damaged?
There would be a risk of a Fukushima scenario. I think the Chernobyl scenario is extremely unlikely because the reactors can be shut down very quickly. The accident at Chernobyl occurred while the reactor was operating at high power, well above its nominal level. As a result, active substances reached the upper layers of the atmosphere, which was the biggest problem in the disaster. That did not happen in Fukushima.