EU sets up ‘nuclear’ stockpile on Russian border
The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it will set up the first strategic reserve of equipment and supplies, available to any EU member in response to potential chemical or nuclear incidents. The stockpile will be located in Finland, within easy reach of the Baltic states.
European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said the conflict in Ukraine “confirmed the need” to set up the stockpile, which “will provide the EU with a significant safety net enabling a quick and coordinated response at EU level.”
The hoard will include “critical medical countermeasures,” according to EuroNews, including “vaccines and antidotes, medical devices and field response equipment” needed to respond to “biological, radiological and nuclear accidents.”
In theory, the facility should be able to send supplies within 12 hours of the affected member accepting the EU offer of help. Brussels has approved €242 million ($261 million) in funding for the program, aiming to have the reserve ready for use by 2024.
“Individual countries do not have sufficient measurement capacity and expert resources to respond to large-scale radiation accidents,” Karim Peltonen, director of Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, told EuroNews.
EU authorities say their goal is to ensure that capabilities and response teams can be deployed anywhere on the continent. While locating the depot in Finland – which shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia – may seem baffling in that context, Finnish Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen said this will enable the EU “to respond to different kinds of threats, especially in Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region.”
Long neutral, Finland became an EU member in 1995 and applied for NATO membership last year. Authorities in Helsinki have strongly supported Kiev in the conflict with Moscow, alongside Warsaw and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Claims by certain Western politicians that Russia has threatened the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine have been denounced by Moscow as fake news. Russian President Vladimir Putin has explained that Moscow would only use atomic weapons in response to the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or its allies.
However, the Russian authorities have raised alarm over the repeated Ukrainian shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, under Russian control since last March, calling it an attempt at “nuclear blackmail.” Although the plant’s reactors have been powered down, an impact on the spent fuel storage site could contaminate a wide area. Kiev has accused Russia of shelling the facility to make Ukraine look bad. Monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deployed to the site have strenuously avoided naming the culprit in their reports.