The War in Ukraine Does not Stop: Radiation and Toxicity Increase

Since the Invasion of Ukraine by Russia Began, Different Organizations have Expressed their Concern About a Possible Emergency with the Nuclear Power Plants. Added to this Concern is the Environmental Damage Caused by the Dynamics of War.

Map of radiation and damage in Ukraine

Photo: Visit Map: ecodozor.org

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: La guerra en Ucrania no cesa: la radiación y toxicidad aumentan

After more than 153 days since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine began, the consequences are unfortunate. In the first place, due to the thousands of human losses, both Ukrainians and Russians, as well as due to the crises that are being generated at the energy, economic, food and social levels, with global repercussions. One of the most catastrophic consequences, but one that tends to seem invisible, is the toxicity and radiation that is remaining in the region. The environmental damage will be irreversible and will profoundly affect the population.

In this regard, the United Nations states that "The great variety and severity of the consequences will require verification and evaluation, although thousands of possible incidents of air, water and land pollution have already been identified, as well as incidents of degradation of ecosystems, including risks to neighboring countries". The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and other partner organizations have been monitoring the environmental impact of the war. In their reports, they have concluded that there will be a "toxic environmental legacy for future generations".

We suggest you read: Hunger in the world: the silent threat behind the war in Ukraine

The data from these studies, which have been done remotely and in person, have found multiple harms. Incidents at nuclear power plants and facilities; energy infrastructure, including oil refineries, drilling platforms, and gas and pipeline distribution facilities; mines, industrial facilities, and agricultural product processing facilities. Added to this are dangerous substances that have been released into the environment, such as chemical products and fertilizers, fires, debris and a long etcetera due to armed and military dynamics.

The Ecodozor platform, an initiative of the Zoï Environment Network, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and UNEP, allows live monitoring of the different damage caused by war. There, it is possible to see how practically half the country is seriously affected. However, this monitoring task to know what the real consequences will be is very difficult to do in the middle of a conflict.

In this regard, Carroll Muffett, from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), pointed out in an interview for NPR that the true environmental cost will be known after the end of the war. In addition, he indicated that the risk is not only due to direct attack, but also due to the impossibility of continuing with environmental protection: "It is important to recognize that one of the environmental consequences of war is that the people who protect the land, who manage water safety infrastructure, they can't do their job, or they do it in the middle of live fire zones.

Nuclear radiation in Ukraine: a devastating consequence

Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors on its territory. Also, there is Chernobyl, which after the 1986 incident has its 4 reactors deactivated. However, it has always been a latent danger to humanity due to the magnitude of the emergency it constituted and the need to continuously control its radiation. Despite the fact that in April the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA assured that radiation levels were normal and did not generate a serious threat, Green Peace has denounced inconsistencies with this information.

Green Peace, in conjunction with other organizations and scientists, has conducted research indicating that radiation near Chernobyl is reaching worrying levels. In this regard, it indicates that due to Russian military interventions in databases, laboratories and the systems that control nuclear plants, there are worrying effects. "Serious damage has occurred to technical and scientific equipment and infrastructure developed exclusively in cooperation with the global scientific community, including laboratory equipment needed to study the impact of radiation on people and the environment, which thus threatens the security of this and future generations," they said in a statement. Likewise, they point to the IAEA as having hidden interests, aligned with Russia, to hide said information.

The truth is that not only the Chernobyl exclusion zone is at risk. Likewise, if radiation increases or a catastrophe occurs in another nuclear plant, not only Ukraine would be affected, but also its neighbors and even the whole of Europe. For this reason, agreements are urgently needed to establish commitments to maintain safety in these plants.

In addition, it is necessary to indicate that the risk of radioactivity is not only due to poor management or attack on the plants. According to the Geneva Center for Security Policy, in the midst of the conflict, there have been multiple threats of the use of nuclear weapons. In fact, Putin has repeatedly pointed out that Ukraine has several nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in its possession. However, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, points out that there are no nuclear weapons in Ukraine because the country joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and by 2001 withdrew all nuclear weapons that remained of the Soviet Union. However, several of its allies, such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom, do have them. Therefore, the risk of using this type of weapon is not ruled out.

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