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Pouring Gasoline on a Raging Fire: Face-off Intensifies at Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.


Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.    Photo: AP

The war that began in February 2022, when Russia unjustly invaded its neighboring country of Ukraine, quickly turned into a war between rival, nuclear-armed powers: on one side, the U.S./NATO, on the other, Russia. It is not a struggle between “autocracy" and “democracy.” The Ukrainian people and Ukrainian army are cannon fodder in this war—used cold-bloodedly to advance U.S. imperialist interests.1 Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people have been killed in this war, hundreds of thousands more made homeless, many more maimed, crippled, and raped, in a war that is unjust and criminal on both sides. As Revolution exposed and analyzed last week, right now massive escalations in this war are being prepared and could erupt at any time. The possibility of either side or both sides using nuclear weapons increases every day this war goes on.

And still another danger of this whole horrific situation “going nuclear” looms.

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Specter of Nuclear Disaster at Zaporizhzhia

The largest nuclear power plant in Europe is in the region of Zaporizhzhia, in southeastern Ukraine. The city of Zaporizhzhia (which has a population of over 700,000) and the region around it, including the nuclear plant, have been occupied by Russia since shortly after the war began. But as the largest land war in Europe since the end of World War 2 has raged in its vicinity, the plant is still staffed largely by Ukrainians, under Russian supervision.

South Ukraine showing Crimea and position of nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia.


Map dated August 2022   

Fighting around Zaporizhzhia has left the matter of responsibility for the plant’s safety and security unsettled and uncertain. Both sides have blamed each other for artillery shelling that has damaged buildings at the plant at least six times, “and brought down power lines essential to cooling fuel in its six reactors …” Lack of cooling could set off a chain reaction that triggers a major disaster like those at power plants in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, and Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986. As National Public Radio reported in March, “the specter of a possible nuclear meltdown hangs over every minute of the war.”

This spring a United Nations report said the situation at Zaporizhzhia is "extremely fragile and dangerous" and that as “military activities” continue, the danger of damage to the plant, and possibly a nuclear meltdown, grows. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) developed five “principles” to reduce the risk of a catastrophic nuclear event at Zaporizhzhia, beginning with both sides pledging not to attack the plant or launch weapons from it. But as of late May, “neither Russia nor Ukraine committed to respect” these principles to “try to safeguard Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.”

So, on top of the possibility of the war itself escalating to the use of massively destructive nuclear weapons that both the U.S. and Russia control, there is the possibility of a nuclear meltdown at Zaporizhzhia that neither side is acting to prevent, in the middle of a heavily populated region. From any rational perspective, from any assessment that takes into account the interests of humanity, this is truly, murderously insane.

It is also a concentrated expression of the expand-or-die logic of capitalism-imperialism. The entire dynamic of this war must be radically changed in the interests of humanity, not rival and contending imperialists.

Bob Avakian expressed this fundamental truth in an interview on The RNL—Revolution, Nothing Less!—Show

We can no longer afford to allow these imperialists to dominate the world and to determine the destiny of humanity. They need to be overthrown as quickly as possible.



1. See Revolution’s “The War in Ukraine and the U.S. Threats Against China: A Resource Page” for more on the history and nature of this war, including numerous important articles by Bob Avakian. [back]

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