Sabotage and Skullduggery: Truth behind supposed Russian attack on nuclear power plant


The background  The media was abuzz on Friday with reports that Russia had attacked a nuclear power plant and that it was on fire. What really happened.

The fact that Russia is said to have attacked the Ukrainian nuclear power in Zaporizhzhya was very remarkable news. The reason is that Russian paratroopers had already taken control of the power plant on February 28 and have been securing and guarding it ever since. So when I heard in German media that Russia fired on the power plant, the Russians must have fired on themselves. Is that credible?

Instead, Russia reports that Ukrainian saboteurs tried to get onto the power plant site. Fighting broke out in the process. By the way, it was not the power plant that burned, but a training center on the site 500 meters away from the power plant.

Russian television has published a report [1] on the background of the power plant, which I have translated.

Start of translation:

Russia controls Zaporizhzhya: Kiev’s nuclear experiment has failed.

Possible reasons were given for the provocations that neo-Nazis tried to stage at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. Citing Ukrainian nuclear officials, it became known that the nuclear experiment in Kiev was terminated after the plant came under Russian control. This involves the conversion of nuclear power plants built during Soviet times to American fuel instead of Russian fuel. This process was initiated in recent years under pressure from the United States. And now the problems and threats that have arisen at the nuclear power plants due to the purely political ambitions of the Ukrainian government are sure to come to light. What information would a U.S. company prefer to conceal, even if it meant a disaster?

There was the usual sharp condemnation on social media. One might have expected a more emotional response from a company whose very existence literally depends on events in Ukraine.

“At a time of crisis in Ukraine, the Westinghouse family, like many of our colleagues, expresses its support for the people of Ukraine. We strongly condemn the Russian invasion.”

American nuclear scientists are following developments in Ukraine with particular interest. Ukraine now has four nuclear power plants. There are 15 nuclear reactors. Almost all of them were built in the Soviet Union for domestic fuel cells. In recent years, however, seven plants have been converted to Westinghouse Electric fuel.

This decision surprised many people. In fact, Czech energy engineers tried the same thing earlier: they replaced Russian fuel rods with Westinghouse fuel in one of the power plants on a trial basis. And they experienced a fiasco.

“The use of the fuel elements had to be interrupted because the Westinghouse fuel elements exhibited simultaneous compressive, bending and torsional deformations. The Czechs – for the first time in the history of energy – cancelled the fuel contract and returned to the contracts with Rosatom,” says Boris Martsinkevich, editor-in-chief of the analytical journal Geoenergetika.

Most power units in Ukraine are powered by VVER-1000 reactors. Their fuel assemblies are thin but very long – nearly 4 meters – zirconium tubes filled with uranium or plutonium. These tubes are assembled into fuel assemblies of 312 pieces. They are supplied by TVEL and Westinghouse. But they are not the same. Even in the basic parameters – mass and size.

It is not surprising that the first attempt to “install” Westinghouse in the Ukrainian reactor at the Zaporizhzhya NPP resulted in a failure of the reactor and losses in the amount of $175 million. Since then, other accidents involving U.S. fuel have been reported repeatedly.

“If you take, roughly speaking, a cartridge and try to put it in an M-16 rifle, but it is a cartridge from our Kalashnikov assault rifle, there is no shot. It’s about the same thing. When the Americans came and said, “Let’s not buy Russian, former Soviet, rods,” there was a purely technical question – how to adapt this thing to regulate temperature. They somehow managed to do it,” political analyst Marat Bashirov comments on the situation.

And the keyword here is “somehow.” How exactly was this work done? How reliable were the technical solutions? Nobody knows. But one would very much like to know.

And one more question: why did Ukraine need all this? What is in it for them? Most likely, nothing. Westinghouse Electric, one of the largest American manufacturers of nuclear fuel, is practically bankrupt. All of its recent projects in the U.S. and China have failed. The Chinese have sued them for a total of several billion dollars. And the Eastern European market was Westinghouse’s last chance to survive. Presumably, it was the friends in Washington, to whom Kiev dare not refuse, who asked for it.

“What is happening now in Ukraine deprives this company of the European market. The military operation will probably lead to these nuclear power plants abandoning the use of American assemblies,” says political scientist Marat Bashirov.

It is technically possible to rebuild everything the way it was and put Russian fuel rods back into the reactors. Moreover, experts believe that the IAEA would even welcome such a step. End of translation

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