Nuclear Armageddon Games in Ukraine
In 1946, Albert Einstein shot off a telegram to several hundred American leaders and politicians warning that the “unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” Einstein’s forecast remains prescient. Nuclear calamity still knocks.
Even prior to Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Ukraine, the threat of a nuclear confrontation between NATO and Russia was intensifying. After all, in August 2019, President Donald Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, long heralded as a pillar of arms control between the two superpowers.
“Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise,” declared Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following the announcement. “With the full support of our NATO allies, the United States has determined Russia to be in material breach of the treaty and has subsequently suspended our obligations under the treaty.” No evidence of that breach was offered, but in Trump World, no evidence was needed.
Then, on February 21st of this year, following the Biden administration’s claims that Russia was no longer abiding by its obligations under the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms accord between the two nations, Putin announced that he would end his country’s participation.
In the year since Russia’s initial assault on Ukraine, the danger of nuclear war has only inched ever closer. While President Biden’s White House raised doubts that Putin would indeed use any of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists ominously reset its Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest since its creation in 1947. Those scientific experts weren’t buying what the Biden administration was selling.
“As Russia’s war on Ukraine continues, the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty between Russia and the United States… stands in jeopardy,” read a January 2023 press release from the Bulletin before Putin backed out of the agreement. “Unless the two parties resume negotiations and find a basis for further reductions, the treaty will expire in February 2026. This would eliminate mutual inspections, deepen mistrust, spur a nuclear arms race, and heighten the possibility of a nuclear exchange.”
Of course, they were correct and, in mid-February, the Norwegian government claimed Russia had already deployed ships armed with tactical nukes in the Baltic Sea for the first time in more than 30 years. “Tactical nuclear weapons are a particularly serious threat in several operational scenarios in which NATO countries may be involved,” claimed the report. “The ongoing tensions between Russia and the West mean that Russia will continue to pose the greatest nuclear threat to NATO, and therefore to Norway.”
For its part, in October 2022, NATO ran its own nuclear bombing drills, designated “Steadfast Noon,” with fighter jets in Europe’s skies involved in “war games” (minus live weaponry). “It’s an exercise to ensure that our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective,” claimed NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, but it almost seemed as if NATO was taunting Putin to cross the line.
And yet, here’s the true horror story lurking behind the war in Ukraine. While a nuclear tit-for-tat between Russia and NATO — an exchange that could easily destroy much of Eastern Europe in no time at all — is a genuine, if frightening, prospect, it isn’t the most imminent radioactive peril facing the region.
Averting a Meltdown
By now, we all ought to be familiar with the worrisome Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex (ZNPP), which sits right in the middle of the Russian incursion into Ukraine. Assembled between 1980 and 1986, Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear-power complex, with six 950-megawatt reactors. In February and March of last year, after a series of fierce battles, which caused a fire to break out at a nearby training facility, the Russians hijacked the embattled plant. Representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were later sent in to ensure that the reactors weren’t at immediate risk of meltdown and issued a report stating, in part, that:
“…further escalation affecting the six-reactor plant could lead to a severe nuclear accident with potentially grave radiological consequences for human health and the environment in Ukraine and elsewhere and that renewed shelling at or near the ZNPP was deeply troubling for nuclear safety and security at the facility.”
Since then, the fighting has only intensified. Russia kidnapped some of the plant’s Ukrainian employees, including its deputy director Valery Martynyuk. In September 2022, due to ongoing shelling in the area, Zaporizhzhia was taken offline and, after losing external power on several occasions, has since been sporadically relying on old diesel backup generators. (Once disconnected from the electrical grid, backup power is crucial to ensure the plant’s reactors don’t overheat, which could lead to a full-blown radioactive meltdown.)
However, relying on risk-prone backup power is a fool’s game, according to electrical engineer Josh Karpoff. A member of Science for the People who previously worked for the New York State Office of General Services where he designed electrical systems for buildings, including large standby ge
Article from LewRockwell