US, European nuclear workers condemn hostilities and misinformation

05 April 2022

In a joint statement, the European Nuclear Society (ENS) and the American Nuclear Society (ANS) call for an end to further hostilities at any nuclear energy facilities and "denounce misinformation spread by any party regarding the safety status of nuclear facilities".

Zaporozhe has been under Russian control for more than a month (Image: Energoatom)

The two organisations, which represent workers, academics and others involved in, or interested in, the sector, said they were "deeply concerned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the exposure of nuclear facilities to fighting and worrying public rhetoric".

ENS President Leon Cizelj and ANS President Steven Nesbit say they recognise the "dedication and expertise of our Ukrainian colleagues who have been safely generating the power that citizens need".

They "condemn the attack on the Zaporozhe nuclear power plant" and "decry any military action, whether deliberate or careless, which reduces the safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, nuclear energy workers or International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials in Ukraine".

They also support the IAEA’s work in establishing a framework for the safe operation of nuclear facilities in Ukraine "noting the importance of ensuring there is no undue pressure on workers carrying out important tasks". And they back the IAEA’s role in resolving any questions and "unfounded allegations" relating to non-proliferation, as well as warning about the longer term impact of "misinformation about the risks that a release of radioactive material could present to the public".

"For decades nuclear energy has avoided the use of dangerous and polluting fossil fuels. In doing so it has saved more than 1.8 million lives around the world from premature deaths in the last half-century and reduced the risk of conflict between global powers in competition for resources," the statement says.

"In this decade nuclear energy stands as a major tool in the global response to climate change, because it produces low-carbon heat and electricity while sustainably managing its supply chains and wastes. Nuclear power workers are proud of their role in sustainable energy development.

"Actions which jeopardise nuclear safety or manipulate public fear of radiation will yield disadvantages to all involved in this conflict. Irresponsible tactics regarding nuclear risks stand to exacerbate suffering and reduce the tools at humanity’s disposal for the common challenges of peaceful, sustainable development and avoiding climate change."

In Ukraine, the nuclear power plant operator, Energoatom, said that the country's four nuclear power plants continue to operate within their safe limits, while preparations continue for a rotation of staff at Chernobyl, which Russian forces handed back to Ukraine at the end of last week.

Russian forces have now been in control of the country’s largest nuclear power plant, Zaporozhe, for a month. It continues to be operated by its Ukrainian staff but they need to get approval for operational decisions and IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he had been informed by Ukraine’s nuclear regulator that “the morale and emotional state” of the staff there was “very low”.

He expressed his gratitude and admiration for the resilience and determination shown by the Ukrainian staff but said: “It is unacceptable and unsustainable that staff are working under circumstances that could severely affect their wellbeing and so have a negative impact on the safe and secure operation of these nuclear facilities.”

Seven of the country’s 15 reactors are currently operating, with the remaining units either offline for regular maintenance or being held in reserve.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News