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Civilian Unarmed Protection of Nuclear Power Plant

Published: Jan. 13, 2023


Dear Friends: I would like to share with you this proposal for Civilian Unarmed Protection of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. The key organizer of this initiative, John Reuwer, is a Friend.

The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear plant is in the middle of a war zone in Ukraine. If a missile or bomb should hit the plant, it could spread radiation all over Europe, endangering hundreds of thousands of people. Our hope is that a Nonviolent Protection Force could help prevent such a disaster.

Please See the proposal below and share it with your networks, friends, and colleagues.

from David Hartsough, San Francisco Friends Meeting (1/13/2022)


Proposal for the Civilian Unarmed Protection of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant

January 3, 2023


The ZNPP in Ukraine, the largest in Europe, once supplied 20% of Ukraine’s electricity.

The2600 sq km exclusion zone around Chernobyl, which remains after 36 years, resulted from one relatively new reactor meltdown and explosion, and was contained by the effort of over 100,000 people.

Zaporizhzhya has six fission reactors that have been operating for decades. They are now surrounded by 37 years of nuclear waste sitting in unprotected cooling pools and dry casks which require constant power and maintenance to prevent fires or explosions that would release enormous amounts of radiation.

The Russian army occupied the plant in March 2022. Since then, the plant remains near the front lines of battle between Russian and Ukrainian armies. Artillery fire has occurred near or on the plant for months, damaging various structures, including the back-up power supply lines required to protect the reactors and their waste management facilities from meltdown or fire.

The plant was owned and operated by the Ukrainian state entity Energoatom and run by its personnel, but Russia is in the process of replacing Energoatom employees with workers directly controlled by the Russian government.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) negotiated an inspection that began on August 31 with 14 members inspecting the plant for international safety standards, witnessing the shutdown of the last reactor, and the reconnection of its back up power supply to the coolant system. As of this date, its third team of four international inspectors remains on site. Director General Rafael Grossi continues to document combat activity that knocks out critical power for maintaining the safety of the plant. Alarmed by the dangers to the plant, he has called for a demilitarized zone of 30 km around the plant. Negotiations forthis have been under way for over three months, but have not been successful so far, leaving the power plant and the thousands of civilians that would be harmed by a nuclear material release there in danger.

Why unarmed protection?

This is a clear case wherein military “security” cannot be achieved. The very proximity of combat weaponry near the plant poses a great danger and therefore may be a model situation for reliance on non-military protection, allowing civilians to assume a role in protecting those that are at risk from a severe radiation leak from the plant. We are proposing that those with the ability offer their skills and expertise to create, train, and offer to deploy a Zaporizhzhya Protection Team to assist the IAEA inspectors in reducing the risk of a humanitarian disaster by monitoring a demilitarized zone around the nuclear power plant.

This mission is timely for the following reasons:

Making the mission happen

There are currently over 40 volunteers undergoing training for this mission, drawing from veterans with decades of experience in Unarmed Civilian Protection(UCP) by dozens of organizations and thousands of people with UCP training and experience who could, with sufficient vision, conflict analysis, training, and strategic planning, initiate and sustain a team in Zaporizhzhya to assist the IAEA or others in creating and maintaining a safety zone.

The plan to field a Zaporizhzhya Protection team is underway with the formation of several committees to guide the project and begin training:

  1. An enlistment committee for outreach, seeking volunteers who pledge to join the team and others to support the effort. We are asking for a one to two month commitment from volunteers,  after which new volunteers would begin their rotations.
  2. A training committee is coordinating leadership and content for a series of trainings, the second of which will be held online. Such training includes advanced methods of unarmed protection, local cultural competence, historical and conflict analysis, logistics, communication, nuclear safety, and first aid, as well as in-person and electronic monitoring.
  3. A finance committee is preparing a budget and exploring ways to collect and disburse funds. Some of the initial volunteers can self-fund, but if the proposal is accepted, we will appeal to various peacekeeping groups, perhaps including the United Nations Department of UN Peace Operations, for substantial support.
  4. A publicity committee will steadily disseminate reports and social media updates regarding the project. This committee is also assembling reports and opinion pieces already published.
  5. A steering committee meets weekly to coordinate the planning and explore continued outreach to authorities within the IAEA, the UN, the Vatican, the Russian and Ukraine governments, NATO, and the U.S. government. This group will continue strategizing about the changing situation on the ground and in the international arena. We look forward to your creative corrections, input, and support.

John Reuwer, MD
Chair, Steering Committee, Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Protection Proposal
World BEYOND War Board of Directors
Physicians for Social Responsibility Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

For more information, see the website for the project proposal at worldbeyondwar.org/zap/