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Screenshot of fire at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant

The End of the World Hasn't Arrived Just Yet, But We're Working On It

Abby Zimet

We were in the middle of writing about GOP idiocy at home when news broke of the fire at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, the largest in Europe, which stopped us cold. Such is relativity: Even the most heinous of God-awful news somehow pales before the specter of a nuclear plant on fire amidst a madman's mindless war against a besieged civilian population. News of the latest catastrophe prompted a ragged, emotional Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to declare, "The end for everyone, the end for Europe" - an entirely understandable conclusion, given the brutal insanity of the last few weeks.But according to multiple reports and updates, thanks to better technology and perhaps the last living splinter of reason in otherwise deranged minds, we wish we could be glad to report: Probably not yet, possibly getting there. 

The fire at the Zaporizhzhya plant, which contains six 950 megawatt pressurized-water nuclear reactors, apparently began from Russian shelling; it burned for several hours, reportedly across several floors of a five-story training complex. Earlier reports said Russian troops were blocking Ukrainian emergency teams: "The occupiers do not allow (us) to start eliminating (the) fire." Later, Ukrainian officials confirmed crews were on site and working to put out the fire; they  told the International Atomic Energy Agency the fire had not affected "essential" equipment, and they had seen "no elevated radiation readings." In their latest update, Ukraine's State Emergency Services said the fire was extinguished, and "there were no victims." 

Even before the fire had been put out, various experts had weighed in on the dangers this plant posed compared to the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl. Many said the Zaporizhzhya reactors are "a lot safer," arguing the chances of explosion, nuclear meltdown or radiactive release were far lower thanks to the plant's "robust containment structures," back-up emergency cooling systems and built-in fire protection systems - though one expert did concede, "Obviously, it's not a good idea if you start shooting massive missiles at reactors." In the fraught here and now, the experts' assurances did little to calm a world on edge, and a nation fighting for its life. A sign in Ukrainian at a burned-out Russian tank on a rubble-strewn city street said it best: "Welcome to Hell." If they still lurk, may better angels prevail.


Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: azimet18@gmail.com

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