The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has brought to the forefront nuclear weapons, just as the Russian troops targeted the Ukrainian nuclear sites on Friday. These attacks on the nuclear sites have raised worldwide concerns, and there are discussions taking place over the usage and the extent of the disaster they can cause. Based on the information in the public domain, the US and Russia hold almost 90 per cent of the nuclear weapons present globally.
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Nuclear sites in Ukraine
According to information in the public domain, Ukraine has 15 nuclear power units (13.8 GW) which are active at four nuclear power plants: Rivne, Khmelnitsky, South-Ukraine and Zaporizhzhia, the largest one in Europe.
In the morning after intense fighting, the Russian troops took over nuclear plant at nuclear power plant at Chernobyl which was already shut down and one active nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya. This plant is situated on the banks of the Dnieper River, in the city of Enerhodar.
After the shelling by the Russians at the active nuclear plant in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that safety systems of the plant’s six reactors had not been affected. No report of release of radioactive material has come. Nuclear plants in the war torn Ukraine are operated by NNEGC Energoatom, the country’s nuclear power utility.
Nuclear War Threat
On Thursday, the Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had accused the leaders of the Western countries of being fixated on nuclear war and he even went up to the extent of comparing the US to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and German dictator Adolf Hitler. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister had stated that World War III can only be a nuclear war. In case WW III takes place, the world leaders are concerned over its fallout and what course of action needs to be taken to ensure such an action is not taken by the Russians.
Both the US and Russia have very expensive programmes going on to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads, aircraft delivery systems, missiles and production facilities.
According to a report of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which was released in 2021, nine nuclear-armed states—the US, the UK, Russia, France, Israel, India, China, Pakistan, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)— and together they possess an estimated 13 080 nuclear weapons at the beginning of the 2021.
It has also stated that the estimated number of nuclear weapons which are currently deployed with operational forces has gone up to 3825 in 2021. This has gone up from 3720 in 2020.
“Russia has a larger stockpile than the US, France has its “Forces de Frappe” (nuclear arm), which involves air- and submarine-based nuclear strike capabilities. This essentially acts as the European Union’s de facto nuclear arm,” US based Daniel Darling, Senior Military Markets Analyst, Europe & Asia/Pacific Rim, Forecast International Inc, tells Financial Express Online.
According to him, “The US has a deterrent based in Germany, which is part of Germany’s NATO Nuclear Weapon Sharing Agreement whereby German Air Force Tornado fighter-bombers may be armed with American B61 bombs stored at various bases across Europe (including Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.”
“And then there is the United Kingdom, which has its Trident missile nuclear submarine deterrent (Royal Navy Vanguard-class SSBNs). But in terms of arsenals, Britain and France are quite limited compared to Russia. The US is the real counterpart to Moscow in that regard,” the US based expert adds.