Nuclear power plant today, nuclear war tomorrow?

The president of Ukraine minced no words in a Thursday news conference, saying, “It’s a pity the United States and the West acted too late” to protect his country from the Russian army, because now, “the end of the world has arrived.”

Volodomyr Zelensky meant every word he said, and given the way the Russians have been attacking the country of Ukraine, his warning about “the end of the world” may be right on the mark.

Before there’s any concern about exaggeration, know that the Russians have attached the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The facility is the largest in Europe, with six nuclear reactors on the site. Russian military fired directly at the facility. The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency chief says the Russians hit a training center at the plant but not a reactor.

Reports indicate the firefighters were able to extinguish the resulting blaze, and U.N. and Ukrainian officials say no radiation was released.

An earlier report from The Daily Mail noted that plant spokesman Andriy Tuz pleaded for the shooting to stop so the flames could be put out. Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said the “Russian army is firing from all sides.”

Kuleba added, “If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chernobyl.”

That incident in 1986 is considered to be the worst nuclear accident in history, greater than the one in 2011 at Fukushima in Japan.

Keep in mind that the ruins of Chernobyl in Ukraine are still dangerously radioactive after 36 years, and the Russians have already taken control of what’s left of that facility.

It’s not known if their troops are aware of the dangers of the radiation from that or what protections they may have been given. Judging by how the Russians are treating the situation, it appears they don’t much care about potential radiation contamination.

Dmytri Orlov, mayor of Energodar, the nearby town to the Zaporizhzhia reactor, said there have been casualties, but he gave no details. He did express his basic fear, calling the situation “a threat to world security.”

The Russians are doing all they can to prevent locals from protecting the plant. Not only are they fighting on the ground, they’re sending in tanks and blockading nearby roads to keep help away. At one point, Ukrainian civilians created a human barricade in an attempt to stop the advancing Russian troops.

An adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, Anton Gerashchenko, warned of the dangers and said, “Because of Vladimir Putin’s madness, Europe is again on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. … Russian generals – think again! Radiation does not know nationalities, does not spare anyone.”

The White House said President Biden had spoken to the Ukrainian president, but there was nothing resolved.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, had a 90-minute phone call with Vladimir Putin – again, nothing resolved, but Putin clearly stated his goals in Ukraine. According to Macron, “He will, in his own words, carry out his operation to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine to the end.”

Macron said he told Putin he was “delusional” – that “this invasion will cost your country dearly. Your country will end up isolated, weakened and under sanctions for a very long time.”

I wish we would hear such forceful statements from our president. Why doesn’t our president have concerns about this leading to a nuclear confrontation?

The news wires and the internet are filled with pictures of the nuclear-plant fire and the overall attacks on Ukraine. I will be honest; they left me in tears. The awful and wanton destruction of buildings, schools, homes and businesses in Ukraine for no apparent reason is more than awful. It’s infuriating, stupid, wasteful, painful for the people of Ukraine, illegal, and yes, sinful.

The West is coming through with some aid, but it’s too little, too late and clearly meant to keep us out of any direct confrontation with Putin. I so admire those people who are doing all they can to fight back, to protect what’s left of what they had and to save as many lives as possible. The agony they are suffering is painful to see, but their dedication to defending their country is wonderful.

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, told the BBC he saw an “hours long line of civilians lining up to get weapons. Right now,” he added, “people are proud.”

His brother Wladimir summed it up beautifully: “This is our home. Our parents are buried here. Our children go to school here. Why should we flee? What would you do if someone gets in, to your house? You defend it!”


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