OAKLAND, Calif. - Nuclear experts, worldwide, are keeping a very close eye on the massive nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, that was attacked and seized by Russia and now operated by Ukrainians at gunpoint.
Here's what we know right now about the enormous potential dangers Ukraine, Europe and Russia itself face going forward. Trained, independent and multiple inspectors need to see that plant in-person immediately.
Ukrainian Present Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Europe to intervene at the attacked nuclear power plant, with this warning. "It could alone be as dangerous as six Chernobyls. This is terrorism on an unprecedented level," said President Zelenskyy.
It's increasing the flight of refugees such as this distraught, crying woman who said, "When I tell my mom that I will go to save my life from Ukraine, mum was crying and telling me that maybe she’ll never see me again."
Intense combat near the plant, where Ukrainians put up barricades, did not ultimately keep the plant from being hit. A barrage of bullets, clearly shown by hot, glowing tracer rounds, likely started the fire.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says there was no change in radiation levels at the plant and offered to send a team.
"The fact that Russian troops would fire and attack that plant is something that I think should give everybody a real, real sense of danger of what's going on here," said former U.S. Security Council arms expert Joe Wolfsthal.
M.I.T. Professor Kate Brown is an expert on the science and history of Ukraine's nuclear energy program. "It has a containment structure that's supposed to be somewhat combat ready," said Professor Brown. But, like all nuclear plants, it is vulnerable.
"The Achilles' Heel to these nuclear power plants is the electricity going in. They produce electricity, but they need electricity to run and that's not the electricity they create," said the Professor. The electricity not only operates plant systems, but keeps the nuclear fuels, active and spent, in cooling pools to prevent a meltdown.
There are backup electrical generators if power goes out, but they are questionable. "They're somewhat faulty. But, those diesel generators were, ironically, made in Russia," said Brown. Money from Europe given to upgrade the generators will not be available until next year. Smaller backup generators need constant refilling several times daily.
Then there's artillery and bombardment. "Extremely targeted and a couple of shots, that might be able to blow it up," said Brown.
Professor Brown's entire interview can be seen below.