Critics of atomic energy on Monday described the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia power station in southeastern Ukraine as \u0022a warning that nuclear power plants are a liability, not an asset, especially under extreme conditions of war or climate change.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022We would not be having this conversation if we were dealing with solar panels or wind turbines.\u0022\r\n\r\nWhile Kyiv and Moscow continue to trade blame for recent strikes on the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, advocates at Beyond Nuclear emphasized that regardless of who is at fault, damage to the six-reactor site could have deadly consequences \u0022far beyond the war zone.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022If even just one of the six operational reactors there suffered catastrophic damage and released its radioactive inventory we are talking about a humanitarian disaster that would dwarf Chernobyl,\u0022 Linda Pentz Gunter, international specialist at Beyond Nuclear, said in a statement.\r\n\r\nRadioactive contamination from that 1986 nuclear accident in what is now Ukraine rendered an area of more than 1,000 square miles uninhabitable and caused the illnesses and deaths of potentially hundreds of thousands of people.\r\n\r\nAccording to Beyond Nuclear, reactors at Zaporizhzhia \u0022contain far more radioactivity, both in the working reactors and in the irradiated fuel pools, than was present at the relatively new Chernobyl Unit 4 when it exploded.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022This situation brings home all too alarmingly just how dangerous nuclear power is as an energy source,\u0022 said Gunter. \u0022We would not be having this conversation if we were dealing with solar panels or wind turbines.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022The potential to cause a catastrophic accident even on a good day should have been enough to end the use of this technology,\u0022 she added. \u0022Having reactors in a war zone is a nightmare waiting to become a grim reality.\u0022\r\n\r\nBeyond Nuclear is not alone in sounding the alarm about the dire consequences that could materialize following damage to Zaporizhzhia or any other nuclear power plants now at risk in Ukraine.\r\n\r\nLast week, Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace, told Democracy Now! that \u0022nuclear plants are extremely vulnerable to external attack in the context of a war zone.\u0022 He added, \u0022You\u0026#039;re looking at potential massive releases of radioactivity, potentially even greater than Chernobyl.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBuildings housing nuclear reactors are not designed to withstand missile attacks nor extreme weather events. In March 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami led to a loss of power in three reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, with calamitous results. As the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis supercharges storms, nuclear infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to damage of that sort.\r\n\r\nThis is not the first time that nuclear engineers at Zaporizhzhia have found themselves under military assault. Russian shelling of the facility in early March sparked a fire.\r\n\r\nNone of the reactor buildings or fuel storage sites were affected then. \u0022But after more than five months of fighting,\u0022 Beyond Nuclear explained Monday, \u0022the site has become more perilous, given its proximity to the eastern regions that are at the heart of contention between the two countries.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022The risk of fire is one of the most serious hazards at nuclear power plants on a routine basis,\u0022 said Paul Gunter, reactor oversight specialist at Beyond Nuclear. \u0022A fire at Zaporizhzhia could spread to the irradiated fuel storage pools located outside primary containment and lead to explosions and meltdowns.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022If the fuel pools are damaged and cooling water boils away, exposing the highly radioactive rods to air, we could see hydrogen explosions and the spread of radioactivity far worse than occurred at Fukushima,\u0022 he continued.\r\n\r\nWinds would distribute radioactive gases across Europe and, depending on the scale of the disaster, beyond, potentially reaching as far away as the United States. A Greenpeace analysis published earlier this year warned that severe damage to Zaporizhzhia could render large swaths of Europe \u0022uninhabitable for decades.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nRadioactive fallout from the facility could subject tens of millions of people to chronic or fatal health problems, with the effects of exposure lasting for years on end.\r\n\r\nThirty-six years after Ukraine\u0026#039;s first nuclear disaster, \u0022people still living in Chernobyl-contaminated areas are showing increases in cardiovascular disorders, issues with sight and respiration, and significantly increased rates of birth defects and deformities,\u0022 said Cindy Folkers, radiation and health hazards specialist at Beyond Nuclear.\r\n\r\n\u0022Given the far greater amounts of radiation that could be released in the event of a major disaster at Zaporizhzhia, we would expect to see greater numbers of people seriously harmed and for far longer than the health impacts caused by Chornobyl,\u0022 Folkers said.