This one should be intuitive: with Ukraine scrambling to load up on natgas ahead of the price surge once Gazprom ends its discount pricing, and unclear what if any access it will have to Russian gas in the future and at what cost, it was only a matter of time before the Ukraine stepped up the protection of its only true energy asset: its 15 nuclear power plant, which supply nearly half of the country's energy needs. Ukraine told as much to the U.N. atomic watchdog on Tuesday, although it framed it as a result of the "grave threat to the security" of the country posed by the Russian military.
Ukraine has 15 nuclear power reactors in operation, accounting for nearly 44 percent of its electricity production in 2013, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) website. Ukraine's envoy to the IAEA said in a letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano: "Illegal actions of the Russian armed forces on Ukrainian territory and the threat of use of force amount to a grave threat to security of Ukraine with its potential consequences for its nuclear power infrastructure."
Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk's letter, dated March 4, was circulated among delegations attending a week-long meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation governing board in Vienna. It was given to Reuters by a diplomat from another country.
Prokopchuk's letter to Amano, apparently written before Putin's comments, said: "Under these circumstances, the competent authorities of Ukraine make every effort to ensure physical security, including reinforced physical protection of 15 power units in operation at four sites of Ukrainian NPPs (nuclear power plants).
"However, consequences of the use of military force by the Russian federation against Ukraine will be unpredictable."
On Sunday, Ukraine's parliament called for international monitors to help protect its nuclear power plants, as tension mounted with its neighbor. Prokopchuk urged Amano to "join international efforts in de-escalating the crisis around Ukraine and to urgently raise the issue of nuclear security" with Russia.
Amano said on Monday there were 31 nuclear-related facilities in Ukraine that were being monitored by the IAEA to make sure there was no diversion of material for military purposes, as it does in other countries with nuclear plants.
Whether or not the protection surge is a result of Russian fears is irrelevant: one thing that is certain is that it is quite welcome, when one recalls that it was in the Ukraine where 28 years ago Chernobyl exploded in what was unti then the worst nuclear disaster in history.
In fact, perhaps instead of Crimea, Putin should have gone for one of the Japanese isles several years ago. Maybe only then could the great Fukushima disaster, which continues billowing alpha, beta and gamma rays to this day having surpassed Chernobyl in the worst radioactive catastrophes of all time record, would have been avoided.