The United States decided decades ago that nuclear reactors could not be defended from military attacks. Now, reactors in Ukraine are coming under fire during Russia’s invasion.
Just as the terrorist attacks on 9/11 required a reexamination of how best to protect against terrorist airplane hijackings, Russia’s military assault on Ukrainian nuclear plants raises questions about the security of nuclear reactors in war zones. In the wake of 2001, the United States quickly took simple but effective measures to prevent a repeat of 9/11. Comparable quick fixes are likely not possible for protecting nuclear power reactors on a battlefield. The concern is, of course, the possible spread of radioactivity from the reactor’s core and even more from the reactor’s highly radioactive store of used fuel.