Russian invasion of Ukraine: war damages climate action and the environment, radiation rising around Chernobyl

February 25, 2022 at 3:45 am Leave a comment

Here in Australia we are a world away from eastern Europe and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But there are 40,000 Australians of Ukrainian heritage here in Australia. And we should all be concerned about the impact on Ukraine’s civilian population and the impact of war on delaying climate action and the environment. Russian soldiers after a battle have taken over the Chernobyl nuclear site and taken staff hostage, according to reports. There is some evidence rising radiation levels have been detected. This potentially poses a radiation threat to all Europe.

Australia’s condemnation of President Putin was swift. Sanctions have been put in place. But these will only have a very marginal impact if at all. Australia’s balance of trade is in our favour: we export more goods than we import from Russia.

Threat to Chernobyl nuclear waste storage and radioactive pollution
Attacks on Airports and military bases cause serious environmental pollution incidents
Call for support and solidarity by climate activists
Ukraine XR calls for solidarity action targeting Russian fossil fuels
Germany moves swiftly to stop Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline
Immediate spontaneous protests in Russia opposing the war.

Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) have detailed in a June 2021 blog How does war contribute to climate change?. Worth reading.

Threat to Chernobyl nuclear waste storage and radioactive pollution
Reports indicate that Russian forces from Belarus are engaging Ukrainian soldiers at the Chernobyl nuclear plant and waste storage facility:

“Important information about the Russian invasion! The troops of the invaders from the territory of Belarus entered the zone of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. The National Guardsmen guarding the storage of unsafe radioactive waste are putting up stubborn resistance,” he wrote on his Telegram channel. Gerashchenko stressed that “if a nuclear waste storage facility is destroyed as a result of enemy artillery strikes, then radioactive dust can cover the territories of Ukraine, Belarus and the EU countries!”

Interfax Ukraine – Russian troops enter Chornobyl NPP from Belarus – Gerashchenko

Current prevailing winds are to the north over Belarus and Russia, according to a CEOBS tweet.

There are 15 nuclear reactors located in 4 nuclear plant sites around Ukraine. They are all vulnerable to attack, or even accidental strike by poorly targeted missile.

Mr Gumenyuk warned that were the plant to be attacked, in the worst-case scenario, the consequences would be devastating. “In case of the total destruction of the power plant, I think the consequences would be so much worse than at Fukushima and Chernobyl together,” Mr Gumenyuk said. “If speaking about consequences of this war situation, Europe will be totally contaminated.” In the event of a meltdown, radiation could contaminate the air where, depending on weather conditions, it could spread across Europe, as happened after the Chernobyl accident, when radiation spread as far as Sweden and the UK.

Apple News – Nuclear risk from war in Ukraine isn’t targeted missiles but accidental hits on reactors, safety expert warns

See also this report at Live Science which gives background to the 1986 nuclear reactor meltdown disaster:

As one of the most radioactive places in the world, large parts of the Chernobyl exclusion zone have been closed off since the disastrous meltdown of Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. In that year, two gigantic explosions at the plant blew off the reactor’s 2,000-ton (1,800 metric tons) lid, covering the surrounding 1,000-square-mile (2,600 square kilometers) area with nuclear fallout. The area was later deemed uninhabitable by humans for the next 24,000 years.

LiveScience – Russian troops have taken over Chernobyl power plant, Ukrainian official says

Public Health Epidemiologist and health economist provides initial reports of rising radiation levels in this twitter thread:

The International Atomic Energy Agency is “following the situation in Ukraine with grave concern and is appealing for maximum restraint to avoid any action that may put the country’s nuclear facilities at risk”. On Chernobyl site their statement said:

Regarding the situation at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine has informed the IAEA that ”unidentified armed forces” have taken control of all facilities of the State Specialized Enterprise Chornobyl NPP, located within the Exclusion Zone. The counterpart added that there had been no casualties nor destruction at the industrial site. Director General Grossi said it is of vital importance that the safe and secure operations of the nuclear facilities in that zone should not be affected or disrupted in any way.

IAEA Director General Statement on the Situation in Ukraine

Ukraine media, New Voice, reports that the increased radiation readings are likely due to the number of heavy vehicles disturbing the contaminated soil of the Chernobyl site.

State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine reported on Feb. 25: “Ecocenter experts attribute these fluctuations in the performance of the Ascro sensors to the violation of topsoil due to the movement of a large number of heavy military equipment through the exclusion zone, which has released of contaminated radioactive dust into the air.”

The New Voice of Ukraine – (Update 9:45) DAY 2. Russians launch full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in unprovoked war (UPDATED)

Attacks on airports and military bases cause serious environmental pollution incidents

So far the Russian air attacks have targeted primarily airfields and military bases while ground forces have moved rapidly from Belarus from the north, Russia from the east and Crimea from the south.

Call for support and solidarity by climate activists

The Eastern European Climate Action Network have issued the following statement on the invasion of Russian Federation forces of Ukraine.

Any military action turns the lives of hundreds of thousands of people upside down and has a profound negative impact on the environment. At a time when the world and our region are already weakened by climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, this war will bring even more instability and loss of life. The world does not need another armed conflict.

Ukrainian civil society organizations play an important role in the development of the country and in the CAN EECCA. Democracy, a strong civil society and peaceful diplomatic relations with neighboring countries are the key to the development of a modern state. The Russian government is now discrediting all the work done by local civil society organizations, risking to lose international credibility and setting back progress in many areas.

We call on the international civil society and partners to actively share verified news, publicly condemn the actions of the Russian government and help Ukraine during this difficult time.

We call on civil society in the EECCA region to support each other and stay united

We ask all of you not to give in to disinformation, to check the reliability of the news, and to do everything that is up to you to support Ukraine.

Excerpt from CAN EECCA’s statement on an invasion of Russian Federation forces of Ukraine

Ukraine XR calls for solidarity action targeting Russian fossil fuels

Extinction Rebellion Ukraine prepared a statement shortly before the invasion with instructions for XR Global to release as they may not be able to communicate due to disruption to communications by the war. The Statement outlines how the European fossil fuel dependency has helped nurture an energy security crisis and supported and sustained Putin’s power in Russia.

We want to highlight how the EU’s dependence on Russian coal, oil and gas, has created existential threats both for world peace and for the climate. The money coming from those sources is no less than crucial for Putin’s criminal regime, which uses fossil-fuel money for his military aggression outside of Russia and for unprecedented in world history tv, radio, print and digital propaganda and brutal police control inside Russia.
What climate policy can Germany and other European countries can claim to have if they’ve been buying oil and gas from an international terrorist for decades? How can the climate crisis be solved when there is an energy security crisis at the heart of the EU? Even without a climate agenda, fossil fuels are a threat to world peace as they feed dictatorships all over the world. But Putin’s dictatorship is particularly outstanding.

Read the full 3 page statement including background context here: Statement by XR Ukraine (PDF)

Germany moves swiftly to stop Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

Northern Europe is heavily dependant on Russian gas, particularly for heating through winter. Germany’s new Chancellor Olaf Scholz shelved the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, a new project that was emblematic of Europe’s energy-focused approach to Russia.

Peter Sinclair has written up as Climate Crock of the Week: Putin’s Carbon Tax: War Pushes Europe, and US, to Faster Renewable Transition, in which he explores Europes dependency on gas and how the Russian attack on Ukraine will spur a faster transition away from gas to renewables and storage opportunities. But these won’t happen over night.

Immediate spontaneous protests in Russia opposing the war.

Protests are currently banned in Russia, yet thousands turned out spontaneously in 50 cities across Russia on the first day of invasion of the Ukraine. Over 800 arrests. These are brave actions with implications for living under a dictatorial regime. Many were arrested on leaving there houses or upon reaching their public place for protesting.

One Russian journal is publishing Friday edition in Russian and Ukrainian, and is bravely opposing Putin’s invasion.

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Moreland adopts new community climate targets: 75% emissions cut by 2030, net zero by 2035, Drawdown by 2040 Local Moreland Climate Groups call for end to global fossil fuel addiction feeding Putin’s Ukraine invasion

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