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Are The Ukrainian Nuclear Reactors Safe?

A brief guide to the Russian assault on a nuclear power plant

Happy Friday. Here's what we're looking at today: the Ukrainian war deprives Middle East of wheat, Lukoil calls for an end of Ukraine war, new study pins blackouts on renewables, Russia attacks a nuclear power plant, and electricity prices and consumer debt are on the rise.


  • China snaps up US corn and soybeans as Ukraine war roils trade. (BBG)

  • Russia blasts port of Mariupol as it tightens grip on Ukraine's coast. (FT)

  • Texas primary signals tough path for Democrats heading into US midterms. (FT)

  • War choking off wheat leaves Middle East buyers most vulnerable. (BBG)

  • War plunges auto makers into new supply-chain crisis. (WSJ)


  • Coal reaches highest price since 2008. (OP)

  • Russian oil producer Lukoil calls for ending of conflict in Ukraine as soon as possible. (Reuters)

  • Ukraine "energy war" demands fast gas permits, Manchin says. (BBG Law)

  • Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline lays off all employees. (WSJ)

  • Permits granted for gas power in Malange, Wallonia. (TBT)


  • Anesco gets the green light for trio of UK solar farms. (PVM)

  • Solar PPA business on the rise in Japan. (PVM)

  • TotalEnegies to bid in another US offshore wind auction this year. (OWB)

  • Equinor, BP and New York City launch South Brooklyn Marine Terminal transformation. (OWB)

  • New study reveals small-scale renewable energy sources could cause power failures. (SD)


  • Moon's turnaround on nuclear energy leaves many stumped. (KJD)

  • Sweden's government approves construction of spent nuclear fuel repository. (POWER)

  • Philippines approves revival of nuclear power to help replace coal. (Reuters)

  • Fire at Ukrainian nuclear power plant outside perimeter. (Reuters)

  • Eye-watering energy prices are sparking a nuclear power rethink. (BBG)


  • Ukrainian cyber group to launch guerrilla warfare on Russian power grid. (Independent)

  • National grid pinpoints cause of outage which left 40,000 customers without power. (WWNYTV)

  • Electricity prices and customer debt are rising: "There will be suffering," warns consumer advocate. (UD)

  • Grid transformation poses challenges for western entities. (CEM)

  • Massive blackout hits Taiwan, affecting 5 million households. (BI)

Nuclear Barbarians: Who's At the Wheel? ft. Robert Bryce

Return guest Robert Bryce joined me to talk about the NRC’s decision to rescind its license extension to Turkey Point in Florida. The conversation then turns to the dismal state of current energy policy, Biden’s State of the Union, the problem with how most people (especially those in the media) think about energy, what we can do about it, and some of my weird theories about how the internet has deeply changed our polity.

Are The Ukrainian Nuclear Reactors Safe?

Last night, the Russian army attacked the largest nuclear plant in Europe, Zaporizhzhya, located in southeastern Ukraine. Here's what you need to know.


Here's a map of the entire Ukrainian nuclear fleet, which consists of fifteen reactors, which generate half the nation's electricity. Zap sits in the bottom right. It provides more than a fifth of Ukraine's total electricity, a whopping 5,700 MW.

All of these are VVER reactor types (not the old school Chernobyl-style reactors) that have received post-Fukushima upgrades. These reactors have missile-resistant containment domes. They look like this:

In other words, they're incredibly sturdy and safe. Don't take it from me, take it from radiation safety expert and former Nuclear Barbarians guest DJ LeClear:

The Attack

The assault, which began early in the morning on Friday, March 4, Eastern European Standard Time, was mainly on an administrative building. One reactor was hit, but it was already switched off. 

Reuters reports that, "A fire broke out in a training building outside the largest nuclear power plant in Europe during intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, Ukraine's state emergency service said on Friday."

The Aftermath

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that radiation levels did not increase.

Nor was any essential equipment damaged.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm reported that the reactors have been safely shut down.

At the time of the attack, only one reactor was running, about 950 MW of power. Parts of Ukraine may struggle to keep the lights on. A potentially tragic turn of events, especially during this time of year. This explains the rationale for the attack. Here's the forecast for Kyiv:

If you'd like more technical detail on why a catastrophic meltdown did not happen, Mark Nelson, another former guest on Nuclear Barbarians, from the Radiant Energy Group, wrote this helpful thread:

Unfortunately, Zelenskiy misrepresented the gravity of the situation to the western press to help win his embattled country more support. An understandable move that damages his credibility.

At a time when a large swath of the world is reconsidering nuclear energy after decades of slander and demoralization, I hope the media panic around this event and Zelenskiy's falsehoods and Putin's violent recklessness don't halt the current progress. 

Crom's Blessing