Missing from Chernobyl.
An enormous heist.
1. When the lights went out at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on 9 March, the Russian soldiers holding Ukrainian workers at gunpoint became the least of Anatolii Nosovskyi’s worries. More urgent was the possibility of a radiation accident at the decommissioned plant. If the plant’s emergency generators ran out of fuel, the ventilators that keep explosive hydrogen gas from building up inside a spent nuclear fuel repository would quit working, says Nosovskyi, director of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) in Kyiv. So would sensors and automated systems to suppress radioactive dust inside a concrete “sarcophagus” that holds the unsettled remains of Chernobyl’s Unit Four reactor, which melted down in the infamous 1986 accident.
Although power was restored to Chernobyl on 14 March, Nosovskyi’s worries have multiplied. In the chaos of the Russian advance, he told Science, looters raided a radiation monitoring lab in Chernobyl village—apparently making off with radioactive isotopes used to calibrate instruments and pieces of radioactive waste that could be mixed with conventional explosives to form a “dirty bomb” that would spread contamination over a wide area. ISPNPP has a separate lab in Chernobyl with even more dangerous materials: “powerful sources of gamma and neutron radiation” used to test devices, Nosovskyi says, as well as intensely radioactive samples of material leftover from the Unit Four meltdown. Nosovskyi has lost contact with the lab, he says, so “the fate of these sources is unknown to us.” (Source: science.org)
2. Bret Stephens:
Suppose for a moment that Putin never intended to conquer all of Ukraine: that, from the beginning, his real targets were the energy riches of Ukraine’s east, which contain Europe’s second-largest known reserves of natural gas (after Norway’s).
Combine that with Russia’s previous territorial seizures in Crimea (which has huge offshore energy fields) and the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk (which contain part of an enormous shale-gas field), as well as Putin’s bid to control most or all of Ukraine’s coastline, and the shape of Putin’s ambitions become clear. He’s less interested in reuniting the Russian-speaking world than he is in securing Russia’s energy dominance.
“Under the guise of an invasion, Putin is executing an enormous heist,” said Canadian energy expert David Knight Legg. As for what’s left of a mostly landlocked Ukraine, it will likely become a welfare case for the West, which will help pick up the tab for resettling Ukraine’s refugees to new homes outside of Russian control. In time, a Viktor Orban-like figure could take Ukraine’s presidency, imitating the strongman-style of politics that Putin prefers in his neighbors.
If this analysis is right, then Putin doesn’t seem like the miscalculating loser his critics make him out to be. (Sources: nytimes.com, hir.harvard.edu, nato.int)