The Russians are…shelling the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant?
This does not make sense, but neither do any of Russia’s actions toward the plant. They took the plant by shelling it and caused a fire that destroyed one of the administrative buildings. They are rumored to have mined the plant. The Ukrainian operators are effectively prisoners. The Russians regularly shell the nearby city where the operators’ families live.
There are a couple of possibilities, not mutually exclusive, for why the Russians took the plant. First, it would be consistent with a plan to grab all of Ukraine and install a puppet government, which seems to have been the initial Russian intent. Having control of power plants would be a good thing. The Russians seized Zaporizhzhia early, along with a couple of hydroelectric power plants. Second, it is a relatively safe military base because the Ukrainians have the good sense not to shell a nuclear plant. The district in which it is located, Zaporizhzhia, is one of the ones that Russia has said it plans to incorporate as it did Donetsk and Luhansk.
We’re just beginning to see the effects of shutting Russia out of the world economy.
Russia has been a big supplier of nuclear power plants. About 1 in 3 being built around the world is Russian. South Korea is another potential supplier, and China might like to expand its market share.
But if Russia is out of the market, building of nuclear power plants will slow down. Those currently under construction may falter because their financing comes through Sberbank, also sanctioned.
Saudi Arabia has issued an inquiry for construction of two 1400 Mwe nuclear plants. The responses to that may show how things will go with Russia sanctioned.
A number of new companies want to offer small modular reactors, but it’s not clear when they’ll be ready for installation.
There is a small move toward recognizing nuclear power as a way to supply electricity with much less carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere. Not at all clear how this will turn out.
[This post is based on John Quiggin’s at Crooked Timber and is close in content, although I’ve added a bit.]
Graphic: A NuScale Power module on a truck. NuScale is one of the small modular reactor companies whose designs are going through pre-licensing approval with Canada’s nuclear regulator. Many are designed to be small enough to transport by truck or by shipping container. (NuScale Power)
A few days ago, A Russian statement claimed that electricity would be sold to Ukrainians from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhe nuclear power plant. If Ukrainians didn’t take up that offer, the electricity would go to Russia. Either way, Russia wins.
Not so fast. Russia does not share an electrical grid with Ukraine, so the electricity from Zaporizhzhe can’t be sent there.
The reasons for occupation of the plant are a bit of a mystery. It was taken early in Russia’s campaign against Ukraine, so perhaps it was part of the plan to take control of Ukraine with the help of internal collaborators in the first three days.
The overall occupation didn’t work, but the Russians still hold Zaporizhzhe, so they are trying to make the best of it.
Thursday night (March 3) I was about to make my usual move to the living room to read dead-tree magazines and books with the cats, and a black and white, hard-to-decipher livecam picture showed up on my Twitter feed. A firefight at Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant!
I am in touch with a loose network of people with skills to interpret these reports, and we went into action. First thing was to figure out where the camera was at the plant and what we were looking at. Get a map of the plant. Figure out what we were seeing on the video and if it was genuine.
Twitter was panicking, as so often happens when anything happens with nuclear reactors or radiation mentioned, so I wanted to get out whatever information I could as fast as I could. Others were doing the same.
Michael Flynn was one of a number of people pushing the “Middle East Marshall Plan”. His job seems to have been acting as the project’s spokesperson and operative within the administration. That position came to an end on February 13, 2017, when he was fired from his job as National Security Advisor. Read More
The plans offered by ACU and IP3, the companies working with Michael Flynn on a scheme to sell reactors to Saudi Arabia, have many problems. Some, perhaps all, of those problems may arise from naivete about the nuclear industry and the regulations surrounding it. Looking at the plans and how they changed over time may help in understanding what these companies were doing. Read More
Since elements of the story first appeared, I have been intrigued by the idea that Michael Flynn wanted to sell nuclear reactors to the Saudis. Too much of it doesn’t make sense and still doesn’t. A few things I’ve wondered about:
Flynn has no experience with nuclear reactors.
Why nuclear reactors? There are a great many problems in selling in building them.
Why Russian reactors?
Why is the administration so persistent in pushing this deal?
Most importantly, is this activity connected to other varieties of Trumpian corruption?
A simple theory can explain this. The Saudis want nuclear reactors to eventually build a nuclear weapons program. Flynn was at the head of a group of Trump-connected grifters who wanted to make money from that desire. Informed by a profound ignorance of nuclear economics and nonproliferation, it explains everything in a general way, but others also have the uneasy feeling that it’s more than that. Read More
Michael Flynn is known for thinking outside the box, and we need ideas outside the box to solve some of the world’s problems. It’s also great when an action can address more than one problem. But it also helps to know what you’re doing.
Here’s an IDEA: The United States and Russia work together to supply Middle Eastern countries with civilian nuclear power. Several of those countries have been seeking nuclear power. The United States and Russia have companies that can build the plants. That’s the deal Flynn was seeking in October 2015. Read More