‘We will not surrender the station’: Concern over Russian attacks on Ukrainian nuclear plants via France24

Pavlo Pavlyshyn, the director of the Rivne nuclear power plant, has been working in Ukraine’s atomic power industry since 1992. He spoke to FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg about the current dangers at Ukraine’s power plants, only three of which – including Rivne – remain under Ukrainian control. ADVERTISING

What are the dangers that Ukraine’s nuclear power plants are facing?

There are a lot of different potential scenarios depending on the type of incident. If there is damage to the auxiliary equipment, that is one thing. If there is damage to the primary circuit and the reactor, then that could be something comparable to the Chernobyl disaster or to what happened at Fukushima in Japan – that’s the biggest risk.

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So you will fight for the station even if that means the risk of facing a nuclear disaster?

So be it – we will not surrender the station.  

… Why should we? It’s our power station, these are our people, our staff, why should we give up anything? That’s why we are ready to fight, ready to defend ourselves, we will defend the power station and no one will surrender it.

But what if there’s a risk of a nuclear accident and everyone would die? What are the chances of this happening?

Well, then we will die. But no one will surrender the power station.

The war is really happening. In Europe or America maybe you think that this war is not really happening. But look what is happening in Mariupol: they are burying people in mass graves, innocent children and civilians are dying. And Kyiv, Kharkiv, Bucha, Hostomel … So what difference does it make? Why should anyone surrender anything? No one will do that. That’s the one thing I can guarantee you.

Could the plant withstand a possible missile hit?

Our blocs are designed to withstand an aeroplane crashing onto them. But an airplane crash and a direct hit by missiles of different calibres are absolutely not the same thing. The maximum impact the power station was designed to resist is a plane falling on its roof. As to what would happen in the case of several missiles hitting the station, no such studies have been done.

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What would you like to hear from Ukraine’s Western partners?

First, there are organisations that oversee nuclear weapons and nuclear power stations across the world. There is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and there is the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) that brings together power station operators from all over the world. We have so far heard nothing concrete from them. Nothing. They mumble something or other but it’s completely ineffective, and they give the impression that they are just trying to cover for themselves somehow. So the first thing I’d like is for those organisations to start seriously warning the world of the dangers of combat operations taking place near nuclear installations, of the huge problem that might become for the world.

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