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  • Borislav Ivanov

Nuclear disaster narrowly avoided; Russia-Ukraine war update, day 184

Nuclear disaster

According to the country's nuclear operator, Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is controlled by Russian forces, is still isolated from the country's electricity system, a day after being unplugged for the first time in its history.

"The station's own power supply demands are now fulfilled by a restored line from Ukraine's energy grid," Energoatom said in a statement Friday.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said backup diesel generators at the facility had been "immediately engaged" to prevent a "radiation disaster."

"The world must understand what a threat this is: If the diesel generators hadn't turned on, if the automation and our staff of the plant had not reacted after the blackout, then we would already be forced to overcome the consequences of the radiation accident," Zelensky said during his nightly address.

In the case of an electrical outage, the generators give power to cooling pumps, preventing the fuel from overheating.

Energoatom said in a statement Thursday that flames at a nearby thermal power plant forced the nuclear reactor's only surviving power line to disconnect twice. The plant's three other lines had been "lost earlier during the war," according to the report.

The largest nuclear power facility in Europe has been under Russian control since March. Clashes around the facility have aroused public worry and disaster worries.

Ukraine has accused Russian forces of using the facility as a shield, putting the plant at risk of a tragedy. In response, the Kremlin has regularly accused Ukrainian forces of attacking the facility.

However, the disconnection on Thursday has aroused fears that Moscow is seeking to redirect power generated in Zaporizhzhia to Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.

In an interview with on Monday, Kotin, CEO of Energoatom, accused Russia of attempting to unplug the plant from the Ukrainian grid "and then reconnect it to the Russian system."

He stated that the only way to do this would be to completely shut down the plant "and a complete severing of all connections related to the Ukrainian system, because the frequencies are now different, Russian and Ukrainian frequencies — we are synced with the European system, and they are synchronized with Russia."

As the power plant is disconnected from its power supply and is running on emergency generators while being repeatedly shelled by artillery, this creates a perilous precedent. If a meltdown occurs, the damages could be catastrophic – the immediate area will suffer severely, irradiating a large part of Ukraine, and leading to a wave of refugees. A cloud of nuclear particles will form, spreading across Europe, irradiating the soil and buildings. A mass of radioactive materials will flow downstream to the Black Sea, making fishing completely unfeasible.

Credit: Alexander Ermochenko, REUTERS

Putin’s orders: Increase the size of the armed forces

In the midst of Moscow's war of aggression in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to raise its troop strength by 137,000 to a total of 1.15 million personnel.

Putin's proclamation, which goes into effect on January 1, does not specify whether the military would beef up its ranks by drafting more conscripts, expanding the number of voluntary troops, or a mix of the two.

The directive published on Thursday would bring Russia's total military personnel to 2,039,758, including 1,150,628 troops. According to a prior directive, the military's numbers at the start of 2018 were 1,902,758 and 1,013,628.

According to the Kremlin, only voluntary contract troops are involved in Ukraine's "special military operation."

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