Ukraine War Day #300: Mitigating The Risk Of A Dirty Bomb

Dear Readers:

In previous posts we learned the scary news that Ukrainian shelling of the Zaporozhie Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) was most likely designed to set off the equivalent of a dirty bomb. Given that the Ukrainians strive with all their might (and dwindling number of HIMARS) to hit the spent-fuel containers. Why on earth would anybody want to set off a dirty bomb on Ukrainian territory? why would anybody try to contaminate their own air with radioactivity? The answer is simple: Because it would force Russian troops to evacuate from Zaporozhie, thus handing a Pyrrhic victory (and the ZNPP) back to Ukraine.

Fortunately, the Russians have not been just sitting back and passively waiting for this disaster to happen. I have this piece by reporter Darya Volkova, describing some urgent measures taken. Russian engineers are building special structures to protect the spent-fuel containers from HIMARS rockets. Vladimir Rogov, who heads the movement “We Are With Russia”, describes the structures as forming a defensive dome. It will protect not only against rockets and mortars, but also explosives launched from drones. And this is just the first step. As time goes on, the defenses will be built up ever more.

Which is encouraging to hear, because it puts to rest those rumors that the Russians are planning to abandon the ZNPP and hand it back to the Ukrainians. Or to the IAEA, which is essentially the same thing. And this is also a nice “in your face” to IAEA’s duplicitous leader, Rafael Grossi, who has been tirelessly scheming with the Ukrainians while pretending to be just a neutral inspector.

Renat Karchaa

Back in November, Renat Karchaa, who advises the Director of the Russian nuclear agency RosEnergoAtom, warned about Ukrainian shelling of Special Corpus #2, where the freshest samples of spent fuel are stored. At the time, the IAEA just pooh-poohed his warnings, saying that the shellings had not affected any “critical infrastructure” of the nuclear power facility. To which Karchaa retorted tartly: “And what in a nuclear power plant is considered not to be critical infrastructure?” (You gotta love that Abkhazian sense of humor.)

Political pundit Marat Bashirov also picked some choice words for the forked-tongued Grossi: “I am convinced that Mr. Grossi is fully aware what is actually going on, but he is operating within the confines of the usual crib-notes with which he has been provided. This is a matter of professional honor. If he were an honorable man, even if he found himself under pressure, he would manage to find some way to pronounce the right words, which many Europeans are expecting to hear. But he is a vassal, and it is unlikely that his rhetoric will change. Grossi is an Argentinian, so none of this is a threat to him, any more than it is to the USA.

Nuclear physicist Andrei Ozharovsky told the reporter that nuclear power plants don’t typically think to defend any components other than the reactor itself, from something like shelling. Up until now it has never been an issue. [yalensis: Maybe they should have thought of that…]

Marat Bashirov: Grossi is a fucking liar.

In any case, it is an issue now. Alexander Prosvirnov, a specialist in nuclear energy, has been warning us for some time that, should a rocket hit a spent-waste container and cause it to explode, the result could be that of a dirty bomb. Not exactly an atom bomb with a mushroom cloud, yet the particles sent into the air could form a radioactive spray.

The radioactive isotopes will include those with short lives, so they will quickly disperse and become harmless. But there are other isotopes which could conceivably poison the water and soil. A lot depends on the strength and direction of the wind, on precipitation, and a host of other factors. Either way, nothing good can come from such an explosion. Atomic energy expert Alexei Anpilogov indicated the usefulness of building an iron dome over the waste containers, similar to the structures built over the reactor itself. These structures, built in Soviet times, could withstand the impact of a small airplane crashing into it. [yalensis: What about a large airplane? That could never happen?]

Alexei Anpilogov

Spent nuclear fuel is defined as nuclear fuel that has spent 12-18 months inside the reactor. During this time it acquires a high concentration of radioactivity, tens and even hundreds of times more radioactive than natural uranium; and even more radioactive than fresh nuclear fuel: “Most countries either bury it underground, for example Finland and Sweden; or re-process it, for example France and Russia. Ukraine never re-processed it. Up until a certain time they would send it to Russia to be re-processed and buried. Around 15 years ago, Ukraine replaced Russian nuclear fuel with American Westinghouse fuel. But to this day they still don’t possess the technology to re-process it.

“Then the Americans convinced Kiev that it was okay to keep these highly radioactive wastes above ground, just lying around near the station. This was a very controversial decision. Only the United States does things this way, where hundreds of nuclear power stations keep their spent waste, in the hopes that someday they will be able to re-process it.

Russians started to build a shield over spent fuel containers at ZNPP.

“The first experimental repository for spent-fuel waste in Ukraine, was built at the Zaporozhie plant. Subsequently, a central repository of the same type was built in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The American company Holtec was involved in this construction. Up until this time, Holtec only had experience in building containers for transporting spent fuel, but no experience in containing it for long periods of time.”

Anpilogov goes on to worry that these long-term containers were constructed according to an untested and dubious technology. There are so many risks that it is completely justified to build a solid metal cupola over these containers. “Thus it will be almost impossible to destroy them with artillery. High-explosive shells will not be able to penetrate the steel armor. The only thing it will be vulnerable to is strikes from cumulative-warhead ammunition. [yalensis: I don’t know what that is.] So that, if Ukraine starts to strike this cupola with cumulative shells, it will be more than clear that they are specifically trying to get at the spent fuel containers. And then we will be able to present this as proof to world public opinion, that it’s the Ukrainians who do this.” [yalensis: Jesus Christ! as if they didn’t know already… I should let the Ukrainians blow me up so I can have it carved on my tombstone: “See, I told you so…”]

Anpilogov concludes with a similarly dim-witted truism: “By shielding these objects under a steel cupola, we will be able to protect the world from Ukraine’s nuclear blackmail. But in order to create a true safe zone here, they need to stop shelling the station.” duh.

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9 Responses to Ukraine War Day #300: Mitigating The Risk Of A Dirty Bomb

  1. Liborio Guaso says:

    From what it seems the Russians suspect that in the West they are playing with the possibility that the “good Nazis” manage to create a centuries-long nuclear tragedy that affects the Russian land. And the UN and IAEA just pocket another check and smile.


  2. lou strong says:

    For the dangerous manic depression of these UkroNatos seeking the dirty bomb and playing a minor remake of Dr.Strangelove role, I suggest the musical psychic exorcism that used to be practiced in Italy’s heel until a half century ago 🙂


    • yalensis says:

      I reckon it’s worth a try!


      • Beluga says:

        I fully agree with the Russian illogicalities you point out in your italicized comments in the post.

        NATO propaganda has blared for months that Russians are shelling themselves at the ZNPP they control. Why? Supposedly the Russians want to blame the Ukies for war crimes if there is a radioactive release. And Russians are so desperate and suicidal, they supposedly put their own people in harm’s way of their own artillery shells and rockets. That’s the “logic” we get fed in the West. And apparently, the general dumb-as-an-ox populace in the West “believe” this nonsense.

        Given that, you’d think that the Russians would apply some better logic to the situation. Building a steel dome over the spent nuclear fuel is their response. They assume that if the project gets completed and the shelling continues afterwards, it will be obvious to one and all that it must be the Ukrainians doing the shelling. Haha. Not a chance. The West will just double down on their original story that it is but an extension of an elaborate Russian hoax to blame Ukraine, and that the dome is specifically designed to resist Russian weaponry. Hell, I could write that script, let alone some overpaid Beltway operative doing it during his coffee break.

        So, the Russian response of building a safe dome over the spent fuel will be dismissed in a couple of sentences by the US/UK PR spinners. Russia might as well save the effort if their motive is solely to change Western minds on the source of the shelling. They can only do the right and humanitarian thing and be satisfied with that accomplishment. Sad but true.

        But what of the IAEA inspector dopes stationed at/near the ZNPP? Do they honestly believe the Western bullshit? Who knows? But if they do, they must be extraordinarily stupid people.

        One hopes that the Russians do not allow these folk to eat at the plant’s cafeteria for lunch. They would likely be shunned. They can bring sandwiches from whatever lodgings they presumably stay at in the neighbouring city. One supposes the shelling only takes place at night while they snore away some klicks distant. In fact, the easiest way to test the IAEA inspectors’ motives might be to insist they stay overnight one (or more) random time. Give ’em sleeping bags and a spare office with a window looking out over the spent nuclear fuel. If they get antsy, then it can be assumed they know a barrage is on the way. That would be a hoot to secretly video, and then publish. And then — blinis for brekkie! Courtesy of the Russian Federation.


        • yalensis says:

          I like your idea of forcing the IAEA inspectors to spend the night close by the spent fuel containers. I would go one further and make them live under the protective dome, close by the containers. Then record their frantic phone calls to the Ukry: “Not tonight, please!”


  3. Daniel Rich says:

    At the time, the IAEA just pooh-poohed his warnings, saying that the shelling had not affected any “critical infrastructure” of the nuclear power facility.

    Note to self: The way the IAEA sidesteps the fact that 404 really attacked a nuclear powerplant, makes any professional limbo dancer turn green with envy.

    Time to abandon the UN/IOC/IAEA/Etc., as all those, supposedly neutral, institutions have been politicized and weaponized, and thus can’t be trusted.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Daniel Rich says:

    @ yalensis,

    “The only thing it will be vulnerable to is strikes from cumulative-warhead ammunition. ”

    A double-headed munition, where the first creates an entry point for the latter to explode in.


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