Russians Attack The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant: It Is Currently Ablaze

BY Herschel Smith
4 months ago

On fire with tracer rounds flying around.

I have earned a living as a nuclear engineer for 43 years doing everything from systems engineering to reactor engineering and particle transport and radiation shielding and activation calculations.  I can’t even begin to tell you how idiotic, ignorant, stupid, vulgar, unwise, wrongheaded, witless, irresponsible, lamebrained, and knuckleheaded this move was.

Only an uneducated nitwit, a lunkheaded fool and crackpot would order such a thing or even participate in it.

Now let’s be clear.  Commercial reactors don’t explode like nuclear weapons.  They just don’t.  American made nuclear reactors must be designed with an overall negative power coefficient by the Code of Federal Regulations.

Not so for Russian designed reactors.  I developed and presented training years ago to the Department of Energy safety analysis engineers on Chernobyl.  The problem with that accident is that the reactor design could (and did) have an overall positive power coefficient because of its positive void coefficient (here is the stipulation – assuming that the electronic controls work, this has been accounted for by automatic reactor control).  The precursor to the accident was that an electrical engineer bypassed that automatic protection circuitry for the purpose of a test and plant management let him do it without a documented safety analysis.

Even then it didn’t explode.  It was a steam explosion, not a nuclear explosion.  Nonetheless, the core melted and the radiological source term caused a problem for an awful lot of people.  Today I would gladly take a walk around the exterior of the plant.  Then, not so much.

Even if the reactor was shut down upon the assault by Russian forces, there is still core cooling to consider, as well as thousands of metric tonnes of spent fuel in the pools.  A SRO (Senior Reactor Operator) and RO, along with equipment operators, must be on shift 24 hours per day.

Nuclear reactors (especially as designed and built in America) are inherently safe, clean and efficient, and produce carbon free power.  America will go nuclear or suffer life without power, because solar cannot even begin to compete with nuclear in terms of powering industry.  Russian reactors are inherently safe too, mostly, that is, until some dunderhead goes shooting at safety systems and kills plant operators.  That’s why nuclear power plants have the most intensive security of virtually any place on earth.  I’ve seen it first hand.

But the security wouldn’t be able to stop an assault like this.

I … just … can’t … even … begin … to … tell … you … how … stupid … this … is!  Well, stupid or wicked.  Words fail me.

But, Putin … and Russia’s military apparatus.  So there.  You can sign me up for being highly pissed at Putin and his military apparatchiks.  While the responsible ones among us are trying to convince people of the rightful need for nuclear, they have to go and muddle this up, even if it’s only because of wrongheaded thinking by people who don’t understand the physics of nuclear energy and are frightened because of that.  Even if the plant is under control right now, the psychology of this is damaging.


  1. On March 3, 2022 at 10:36 pm, George1 said:

    There are no adults in the room apparently.

  2. On March 3, 2022 at 11:01 pm, Glenn said:

    It was just on the news that this incident was very overblown

  3. On March 3, 2022 at 11:07 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    “The news.” Okay.

    That’s what I’m trying to tell you. No one in any news station understands the way a nuclear power plant works. I do.

    I don’t care what “the news” says.

    If the nuclear power plant is on fire and taking fire, the spent fuel pool cooling pumps might get shot up or their motor control centers or other power supply knocked out.

    That’s not “overblown.”

  4. On March 3, 2022 at 11:19 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    What’s directly in front in the video looks to me like the turbine building. The fire is to the right in what appears to be the auxiliary building.

    The worst place it could be. Where all the safety equipment is.

  5. On March 3, 2022 at 11:26 pm, X said:

    Can we be sure that the media reports are accurate? I have a hard time believing that the Russians would be “stupid” enough to attack a nuclear power plant to the point of damaging it so that it melted down.

    There are many valid criticisms of the Russians. Yes, they fucked up at Chernobyl. And they are aware of that. But they also fly jet fighters, put men on the moon, operate nuclear submarines, etc. They are not exactly jungle primitives. They have a chain of command and responsibility and consequences.

    What is the Ukrainian role in this? Are the Ukrainians using the plant as a “shield” for a defensive position? Did the Ukrainians set the fire themselves? Is this just merely small arms fire, which would not actually damage the plant, or heavy artillery?

    I’d like some more detailed facts and info. The “fog of war” and all that.

  6. On March 3, 2022 at 11:26 pm, Phelps said:

    1. Position military units at power plant
    2. Get military units attacked by OPFOR
    3. Cry about how OPFOR is attacking power plant


  7. On March 3, 2022 at 11:32 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    So they should just roll over and allow breach of the most sensitive place in the country, perhaps making land around in uninhabitable for decades?

    You wouldn’t do that.

    And thus your comment is as idiotic as the people setting the plant in fire.

  8. On March 3, 2022 at 11:34 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    The Ukrainians would not have done what you alleged.

  9. On March 3, 2022 at 11:38 pm, Stealth Spaniel said:

    My dad was a nuclear engineer-in the ’50s, when it was frigging dangerous because….unknowns. He loved nuclear power, and said that it was a gift. He would be disgusted with the fear that it is now treated with. A well constructed and well run plant allows incredible energy freedom. As usual-politics are deadly to everything.

  10. On March 3, 2022 at 11:42 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Stealth Spaniel,

    Nuclear Power is a gift from the Almighty allowing us to tame one of His secret ideas, binding energy, for our own purposes.

    Every well functioning nuclear power plant is a precious gem.

    And this is how much the people around it, and who built it, cared about it.

  11. On March 4, 2022 at 12:45 am, Ohio Guy said:

    It sure does seem like some organisation wants the western populace frothing angry at the Russians. What’s next? Anger at Xi over Taiwan or the Uhigers?

    Remember folks, WW3 has already started some time ago. That said, psyops are a main feature. The collective west is run by slackers and psychopaths. It is they who orchestrate chaos.

    Please don’t let yourselves be baited into lies.

    Try logging on to RT or any other Russian news source. I’ll bet you can’t get on due to Ddos attacks.

    Do, however, prepare for food and fuel prices to skyrocket along with inflation in the coming weeks and months.

    If I had a large sum of money in the banks right now, I’d certainly be funneling it out now.

    Here’s a factoid: Russia exports 1/4 of global wheat and sunflower oils.

    Best brace for impact.

  12. On March 4, 2022 at 3:46 am, Chris said:

    Not all is as it appears.

    I smell Propaganda.

  13. On March 4, 2022 at 4:53 am, Hudson H Luce said:

    Prof. John Mearsheimer said – 7 years ago, that if Putin invaded Ukraine, that one of his main goals would be to wreck the country. Seems like this is right in line with that. And what’s interesting is that Biden is bankrolling Putin to the tune of $1 billion per day, that’s because the US is still importing Russian oil and gas – and paying more and more for it. And both Putin and Biden are part of the WEF… Embargoing Russian oil and gas and producing our own – which can be done quickly – shut-in wells can be brought back on line, pipelines can be re-started – would cut off a serious source of funding. Yet the “Biden Administration” fails to do this, citing pretty much nonsense reasons, and in the meantime the Military Industrial Complex gets richer – perhaps when Lenin said that “the capitalists will sell us the rope we use to hang them with”, he was correct. Look at this:

  14. On March 4, 2022 at 7:15 am, Arthur Sido said:

    It would be wise for everyone on this continent to slow down instead of lunging at the end of their chain like a junkyard dog based on every media report that comes along.

  15. On March 4, 2022 at 7:20 am, Wes said:

    @Ohio Guy
    I’m able to reach RT, as well as the Kyiv Post & Kyiv Independent at my leisure. There are a few seconds of delay awaiting the pass through of their anti-DDoS front-end (CloudFlare in the Kyiv cases), but the page comes up fine. RT’s is a bit more glitchy if you’re used to using your back-button after reading an article.

  16. On March 4, 2022 at 7:51 am, Chris said:

    I see the administration is thinking of sending Harris to Warsaw, Poland, and Bucharest, Romania. All I can think is “Ron Brown.”

  17. On March 4, 2022 at 8:27 am, Dan said:

    The fear supports a narrative. Don’t restart your risky reactors, buy our clean burning natural gas instead.

    It’s a feature not a bug.

  18. On March 4, 2022 at 8:35 am, X said:

    Looks like a false alarm. The Russians have now gained control of the plant and the reactor and the fire is out:

    At least the incident provided a bit more fuel for the hysteria machine of the Western press…

  19. On March 4, 2022 at 8:54 am, Matt Bracken said:

    7:34; Ukraine FM: “Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP,” as if there is a sustained attack on a nuclear reactor!

    7:47; AP in name of Ukraine: “elevated levels of uranium are being detected.”

    8:20: A fire at an admin building in the complex.


    [Referenced statements at link]

  20. On March 4, 2022 at 9:08 am, xtphreak said:


    This is my 42nd year since graduation.
    This is my 42nd year since I started @ BSEP (back then it was the Brunswick Steam Electric Plant).
    I’m now a Senior Test Engineer doing startup @ Vogtle 3 & 4.
    Soon the site will produce over 4 GigaWatts.

    That’s power.

    I look out the windows at Vogel 1 & 2 in awe as they sit there pumping over 2 GigaWatts onto the grid, with very little sign of activity save water vapor from the cooling towers.

    I remember as a rookie standing at a door in the face of the turbine deck at Brunswick, both turbines humming behind me, looking out at all the lights of the countryside, thinking, “Everything I do, helps make the light come on when somebody flips the switch.”

    Most people take the power for granted.

    I’m proud to still work in the single most awesome industry in the world.

  21. On March 4, 2022 at 9:24 am, Bear Claw Chris Lapp said:

    If it was the Russians there securing it oh wait they blew it up upon access. Doesn’t make sense, did Russia start the fire fight or the kraines I don’t know.

  22. On March 4, 2022 at 9:52 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @ Mr bear claw, I said above, if you took the time to read, that the Ukrainians wouldn’t do that. If you care to discuss that fact further, we can, but I already answered the question.


    That’s a rather shocking response. I initially thought it could be the auxiliary building because it appears to be a block building, but of course, the admin bldg could be too. In either case, these are all appurtenant structures.

    A fire in the admin bldg could destroy records for component and systems traceability. A fire in the admin building could spread to the service bldg, which could spread to the auxiliary bldg, which could spread to other reactors on site.

    If someone attacks a nuclear power plant, they don’t have the intelligence of a monkey. That’s a retarded thing to do.

  23. On March 4, 2022 at 11:00 am, Matthew said:

    It’s war. I don’t know what you expect, Herschel. The U.S. would do this same thing without even a moment’s hesitation, but then the general staff would stand up in front of a podium looking especially dour and talk about how they’d expended an especially special amount of careful consideration in planning the attack on the nuclear power plant.

    I get that you think this invasion is a terrible crime. I don’t care either way; eastern Europe may as well be the upper Congo as far as I’m concerned. The Russians aren’t my enemy, and they barely register as a threat, even from a strategic standpoint.

    The real problem for us Americans, as you have documented exceptionally well, are the controllers in our own country. They’re the ones most loudly condemning this invasion and calling for our direct involvement, so I remain convinced that we need to stay out and stop worrying about Europe’s problems.

  24. On March 4, 2022 at 11:11 am, Matthew said:

    “If someone attacks a nuclear power plant, they don’t have the intelligence of a monkey. That’s a retarded thing to do.” (Your quote in response to Matt Bracken)

    “The U.S. would do this same thing…” (Quoting me before having read through the comments)

    OK, you’re right, and your point stands. The U.S. would do this, and our military leadership doesn’t have the combined intelligence of one monkey.

  25. On March 4, 2022 at 11:32 am, Herschel Smith said:


    I have never advocated that the U.S. become involved in this conflict. I do not now. I haven’t changed my position.

    As for the collective intelligence of the U.S. military establishment not equaling one monkey, as you’ve seen in so many prior posts here at TCJ, I don’t disagree one bit.

  26. On March 4, 2022 at 12:48 pm, Fred said:

    Ivan seizing critical infrastructure is certainly a blow to the cause of Ukrainian sovereignty. In a war such as this; fill the body bags and the need by Russia to defend that infrastructure becomes a liability. Make them pay for it in blood, every day until they quit and go home. Make it cost the the enemy more in blood and machines than it’s worth to keep. There is only one way to fight to fight a war; kill them all and break all their stuff until they stop fighting and go home.

  27. On March 4, 2022 at 1:50 pm, billrla said:

    Oh, heck. I agree with everyone.

    1. Any military operation involving a nuclear plant is not a good thing.

    2. Any media reports about a military operation involving a nuclear plant are probably not reliable.

    I’ll add a third point, about which I am firmly decided:

    3. America’s real problems are right here at home, not in the Ukraine, and the JoeBama Regime is a bigger threat to America than Putin will ever be.

  28. On March 4, 2022 at 1:54 pm, Fred said:

    @billrla, Agreed. The (real) rate of (real) inflation is the (real) problem that Americans face right now. I remember the “it’s the economy stupid’ slogans. They’ll be back soon.

  29. On March 4, 2022 at 2:06 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    I agree, mostly, with the exception of information.

    Some of the comments pointed towards misinformation on the fire or combat at the nuclear plant. I always get that sort of comment be people emotionally defending these actions.

    That objection was demolished when the Russian MoD blamed it on Ukraine, tacitly admitting that there was a military operation and fire at the plant.

    I usually don’t post unless I’m reasonably sure.

  30. On March 4, 2022 at 2:08 pm, cj crane said:

    Huh, I guess those missile shields work after all. And all these years I though it was just a waste of concrete and steel.

  31. On March 4, 2022 at 2:13 pm, billrla said:

    Hershel: Fair enough. To quote the eloquent words of the esteemed Congresscritter, Ilhan Omar (D, Somalia), “Someone did something.”

  32. On March 4, 2022 at 2:21 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Ha! That’s a great quote.

  33. On March 4, 2022 at 2:44 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    This is what happens when ignorant and uneducated people try to write articles about things they don’t understand.

    For those who are interested, I’ll do an update and explain what’s wrong with these articles.

    Most of the misinformation risk comes from journalists trying to do analysis, not in the flow of real information. Videos have handled that problem to a great degree.

  34. On March 4, 2022 at 6:35 pm, Randolph Scott said:

    The Ukrainian leadership is quite capable of doing anything that they accuse the Russians of doing. The Ukrainians are not the Saints that some people are thinking. Ukrainians have been shelling Lubankz for quite awhile.

    The main point is: The MSM, and the installed US government are nothing but lying sons of bitches. They are all compromised by someone and all are corrupt. Do you really want to just believe these evil criminals just because they said so?

  35. On March 4, 2022 at 6:48 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Randolph Scott,

    Did the Ukrainians also invade their own country? Is it all really Ukrainians dressed as Russians? Did we somehow miss that? Did they do the shootout at Las Vegas too?

  36. On March 4, 2022 at 8:05 pm, x said:

    (former USN officer nuc here)
    Who knows what’s actually going on, onsite.
    As a former nuc operator, it makes perfect sense for the Russians to deny Ukraine the use of the facility, and to gain control of it. Not so much for them to attack it with the intent of destroying it.
    I see no evidence yet that they’re attacking w intent to destroy.

    If I were an Ukrainian nuclear operator, my main instinct all things considered would be to shutdown, cooldown, and depressurize each plant so as to put it in as safe a condition as possible, and to continue to remove decay heat.
    For the country of Ukraine, this would be disastrous- this plant represents at least 10% or more of the electical generation capacity of Ukraine.
    An operator’s duty to society is probably larger than duty to Ukraine, to keep the electricity flowing.

    There’s not enough info to tell what’s going on. But a Russian military member’s responsibility is to gain control of this facility for Russia and to deny it to Ukraine. Can’t blame them for that. The Ukraine military’s responsibility is to deny this to the attacker.

    I hope that both sides will refrain from attacks that could prevent the removal of decay heat and which would result in the release of fission products.

  37. On March 4, 2022 at 8:44 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    In response, first:

    “As a former nuc operator, it makes perfect sense for the Russians to deny Ukraine the use of the facility, and to gain control of it. Not so much for them to attack it with the intent of destroying it. I see no evidence yet that they’re attacking w intent to destroy.” … “But a Russian military member’s responsibility is to gain control of this facility for Russia and to deny it to Ukraine. Can’t blame them for that.”

    I do and I can blame them for that. It does not comport with “just war” doctrine. When God says something is wrong, it’s wrong. The end.


    “If I were an Ukrainian nuclear operator, my main instinct all things considered would be to shutdown, cooldown, and depressurize each plant so as to put it in as safe a condition as possible, and to continue to remove decay heat.”

    I don’t disagree, and that’s likely exactly what they did. In fact, their emergency procedures likely required that. Their emergency procedures likely comply with those ideas promulgated by INPO, W, F, GE, etc.

    But then, bullets and rockets flying around don’t care whether the rods have been inserted and Keff << 1. They still have a concern with the availability of the ultimate heat sink for both the core and SFP, as well as the cooling systems. Correction, ALL of the cores, and ALL of the SFPs. This is a multi-unit site. And not only the UHS, but the emergency power to supply it, whether that's D/Gs or whatever. Finally, it doesn't matter what they "intended" to do. Shooting ordnance at nuclear power plants risks too much, and unless they have the intelligence level less than a lab monkey (and they might) they should know better. If they didn't know better, the officers are to blame, and if they agreed to this, both they and their staff and flag officers are to blame.

  38. On March 5, 2022 at 6:38 am, Diff said:

    To remove the plant as a source of energy for Ukraine, they only needed to threaten the location and as you point out the operators shut it down. If a more permanent solution is needed, take down the transmission lines, but leave the installation and step up transformer equipment alone for later use. I’d be surprised if the Russians are not taking down transmission lines anyway.

  39. On March 5, 2022 at 10:21 am, Herschel Smith said:


    Careful. You have an intelligence level >> lab monkey. You couldn’t work for the Russian MoD.

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You are currently reading "Russians Attack The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant: It Is Currently Ablaze", entry #29549 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Nuclear,Politics,War & Warfare and was published March 3rd, 2022 by Herschel Smith.

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