The more than 10,000 workers at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) — currently at the centre of grave nuclear concerns amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — have issued an urgent and impassioned plea for global support.
In it, they share their “sense of deep anxiety” for the future and the lives of their families and friends, and “the fate of our children”. “[A]ll we want is to live and work, [and] raise and educate our children on a peaceful planet,” they said, calling on humanity to “help us defend this right today” as “tomorrow may be [too] late!”.
ZNPP is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and among the 10 biggest in the world. It was seized by Russian troops on March 4, who have since used the plant as a military base from which to attack nearby territories.
ZNPP produced 19% of Ukraine’s electricity in 2020, though its capacity has been reduced after a number of operating reactors were shut down due to damage caused by Russian shelling when it occupied the plant.
In their statement, the workers warn that since the takeover by Russian troops, many “legal norms, principles and regulations” for ensuring safety “have been violated”.
Ominously, they note that “over the past two weeks, the nuclear power plant has become ... the target of incessant military attacks. Artillery strikes are becoming more powerful and dangerous every time, and the threat of destroying critical nuclear security facilities is becoming more real.”
The workers also point out that the nuclear plant is more than just “reactors, steam generators, turbines and various electrical equipment”, it is “a huge team of more than 10,000 employees”.
“These are human lives, each of which is priceless.”
The statement was published on August 18 by Atomprofspilka, the Nuclear Energy and Industry Workers’ Union of Ukraine, which covers workers at the plant.
Atomprofspilka has publicly denounced the actions of Russian troops occupying the plant, including the kidnappings of about 100 plant workers and physical and psychological pressure exerted on ZNPP staff, especially women.
The union has received support from the European Public Sector Union (EPSU). EPSU wrote to the United Nations’ (UN) nuclear watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — requesting it “pay attention to the situation of the workers in the plant.
“Nuclear accidents can be caused by human failures, especially if workers are put under pressure, experience fatigue, etc due to the Russian occupying forces. It is crucially important that the trade union can do its work to represent the workers, prevent exploitation and demand respect for the health and safety and regulations that exist.”
For EPSU, “the best would of course be for the Russian forces to completely withdraw from the plant and the vicinity and go back [home], as has been asked by the UN.”
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has called for a demilitarised zone to be established at ZNPP, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops “without any conditions”. In response, Russia has rejected these calls, and warned it would be a “huge risk” for any IAEA mission to try and inspect ZNPP.
The ZNPP workers’ statement ends with: “Everything that is happening is monstrous and is beyond common sense and morality for anyone thinking at least one step ahead!
“Think about the future of our Earth, the future of our and your children! Our planet is so small and it is foolish to assume that somewhere on it will be possible to hide somewhere from the consequences of a large-scale nuclear catastrophe.”