An accident at ZNPP: what are the Russians going to damage — power units or nuclear waste storage?

The Russian media are actively telling about Ukraine's plans to hit ZNPP with missiles. Fokus found out what scenarios the Russians might be considering now, planning to set up a dangerous provocation at the occupied nuclear power plant in Energodar.

Damage to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, making impossible its future functioning (for electricity generation), is not the main task of the Kremlin, but there are two possible main scenarios of developments at ZNPP, Razumkov Centre energy programmes director Volodymyr Omelchenko told Focus in a comment.

"The main task of the Kremlin is to step up pressure on the Ukrainian military and political leadership, on Ukraine's population and partners, in order to force Ukraine to negotiate on terms favourable to the Kremlin. Since Ukraine resists, and Zelenskyy does not agree to negotiations (and he is right, because they are hopeless, there is no one to negotiate with), then the scenario of the Russians undermining ZNPP becomes real," Volodymyr Omelchenko said.

In his opinion, there are two possible scenarios. "The first scenario has already been partially depicted by the Russian media, saying that Ukraine plans to blow up a dry spent nuclear waste storage facility located at the ZNPP site, attacking this facility with British Storm Shadow missiles. Therefore, I see the following scenario possible: Russia’s detonation of spent nuclear fuel storages, where they may later find fragments of Storm Shadow left by the Russians themselves, or they will make similar fragments and leave them, and tell the world that Ukraine has allegedly blew up the nuclear waste storage with a British missile. I think, we should be ready for this scenario," the expert said.

According to him, there is also a second scenario, where the Russians can damage the system of water supply to the reactor area and to the nuclear fuel storage area inside the reactor. "Then, complete ruination of the reactor, meltdown of the reactor zone may occur. Although I think the first scenario is still more likely, there may be a combination — first they will blow up the storage of dry nuclear waste, and then they will try to damage the ZNPP reactors themselves," Omelchenko said.

A possible scenario: Russia may blow up a nuclear waste storage facility and later find debris of Storm Shadow missiles 

He noted: although the scenario of the Russians trying to damage the power units is not ruled out, in his opinion, the main thing for the occupiers is the opportunity to create a disinformation campaign rather than to seriously damage ZNPP. "The main thing for them is to launch an information campaign for the whole world that Ukraine blew up the plant. The main thing for them is not to destroy the plant but to present Ukraine as a nuclear terrorist. But I don't think that blowing up reactors and arrangement of Chornobyl is in their plans", — says Volodymyr Omelchenko.

The expert also noted that Ukraine’s partners currently look unlikely to be ready for possible Russian provocations or sabotage at ZNPP. "There was a similar situation with Kakhovska HPP, Ukraine warned about mining, but they (our partners) did not react. Today, too, the situation is such that the IAEA Director General, Rafael Grossi, is reassuring everyone all the time and does not see what is going with the station mining, and what is most important about the threat of Russian terrorists at ZNPP, he sees the threat in the Ukrainian counteroffensive and in the fact that the pond may run out of water. Unfortunately, Grossi plays on the Russian side, which is disturbing. The IAEA monitoring group remains at the station, but they are only admitted to certain areas, not everywhere. More than 100 people in the IAEA secretariat are Russians, and the IAEA security department is led by a Russian citizen; unfortunately, the Russian agents in the IAEA form the agenda," Volodymyr Omelchenko said. 


Volodymyr Omelchenko

Director, Energy Programmes

Born in 1967 in Kyiv

Education: Kyiv Politechnic Institute, Department of Chemical Engineering (1992)

Author of over 50 scientific works and op-ed publications. Took part in development and implementation of international energy projects and scientific research in international energy policy


1992 – 1996 — worked in different positions in the mechanical engineering industry

1997 – 1998 — Head Expert of the Division of Oil, Gas and Petroleum Refining Industry of the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine

1998 – 2003 — Naftohaz Ukrayiny National Joint-Stock Company, in Charge of Oil Transportation Section

2004 – 2007 — Chief Consultant at the National Institute of International Security Problems of Ukraine’s NSDC

since February, 2007 — Leading Expert, Razumkov Centre. Director of Energy Programmes since 2013

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