IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


6th July, 2023 Geography

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The risks and safety measures at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Ukraine, particularly in the context of the military conflict in the region.


  • The Zaporizhzhya NPP in Ukraine has faced threats due to military conflict, raising concerns about its safety.
  • A report by the Bellona Foundation analyzes the risks associated with hostilities around the NPP and compares them to the Chernobyl NPP accident.

Comparison to Chernobyl

  • Unlike Chernobyl, Zaporizhzhya NPP has VVER-1000 reactors, not RBMK reactors.
  • The safety measures implemented at Zaporizhzhya NPP after the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters further distinguish it from Chernobyl.
  • The Bellona report concludes that any damage at Zaporizhzhya NPP is unlikely to have the same scale and impact as Chernobyl.

Reactor Design at Zaporizhzhya

  • Zaporizhzhya NPP has six VVER-1000 reactors, providing a total capacity of 6 GW.
  • The reactors utilize a primary cooling circuit where fuel rods are submerged in water, which acts as both coolant and moderator.
  • Heat generated in the primary circuit is transferred to a secondary cooling circuit, where water is converted into steam to generate electricity.
  • Unlike the Chernobyl RBMK reactors, the VVER-1000 reactors at Zaporizhzhya remain inside a thick prestressed concrete containment.

Risks and Threats at Zaporizhzhya

  • The worst-case scenario involves complete containment damage and a projectile striking an operating reactor.
  • A breach could lead to depressurization of the primary water circuit, releasing steam, radioactive materials, and volatile substances into the air.
  • The mixture may contain iodine-131, which poses a short-term threat due to its potential dispersal by wind and accumulation in the human thyroid gland.
  • Cesium-137, with a longer half-life and responsible for contamination after Chernobyl, could also be released in the event of a breach.

Other Threats and Operational Status

  • Reactors being shut down for several months significantly reduces the threat of iodine-131 release.
  • Cold-shutdown, where the primary circuit is near atmospheric pressure, reduces the risk of explosive leaks.
  • As of May 2023, all reactors except the sixth were in cold shutdown at Zaporizhzhya.

Recommendations and Concerns

  • The Bellona report suggests that all reactors should be in shutdown or cold-shutdown states during hostilities.
  • Fuel movement and hostilities should be kept away from the plant's territory.
  • Rehabilitation of plant staff should be considered when Russian troops withdraw from the plant.
  • Concerns are raised about the working conditions of the plant's employees, particularly regarding management, violation of protocol, and suspicions of disloyalty.

About Zaporizhzhya NPP

  • The Zaporizhzhya NPP is one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world.
  • It consists of six VVER-1000 reactors, each with a power-generating capacity of 1 GW.
  • The total installed capacity of the plant is 6 GW, making it a significant contributor to Ukraine's electricity production.

Reactor Design

  • The reactors at Zaporizhzhya NPP are of the VVER-1000 type, which stands for "Water-Water Energetic Reactor."
  • The VVER-1000 design is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) technology widely used in various countries.
  • In this design, water acts as both the coolant and moderator to maintain stable nuclear reactions.
  • The primary cooling circuit involves water circulating around the fuel rods to remove heat generated by nuclear fission.
  • The heat is then transferred to a secondary cooling circuit, where it produces steam to drive turbines and generate electricity.

Safety Measures

  • The Zaporizhzhya NPP incorporates several safety measures to prevent accidents and protect the environment and surrounding communities.
  • The facility is equipped with multiple redundant safety systems, including emergency cooling systems and containment structures.
  • The containment structures, made of prestressed concrete, provide an additional layer of protection by confining any potential releases of radioactive materials.

Regulatory Oversight

  • The operation of the Zaporizhzhya NPP is regulated by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU).
  • The SNRIU ensures compliance with national and international safety standards, conducts inspections, and grants licenses for operation.

Environmental Impact

  • Like other nuclear power plants, the Zaporizhzhya NPP does not emit greenhouse gases during electricity generation.
  • However, nuclear energy production produces radioactive waste, which requires careful management and disposal.
  • The plant adheres to strict protocols for the handling, storage, and disposal of radioactive waste to minimize environmental impact.

International Cooperation

  • The Zaporizhzhya NPP operates in collaboration with international organizations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • The IAEA provides technical assistance, conducts safety reviews, and promotes best practices in nuclear safety and security.

Public Perception and Incident

  • The perception of nuclear power has been influenced by past incidents, including the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
  • While the Zaporizhzhya NPP has a different reactor design and enhanced safety measures, public concerns about nuclear safety persist.

Future Prospects and Challenges

  • The Zaporizhzhya NPP, along with other nuclear power plants, faces challenges in ensuring long-term safe operation and addressing public concerns.
  • The plant's future prospects depend on continued adherence to rigorous safety standards, effective waste management, and transparent communication with the public.


Q) Analyze the safety measures implemented in NPPs to prevent accidents and the potential risks they face.Provide examples from notable incidents or accidents in NPPs and their impact on public perception and policy decisions.  (250 words)