Guest post: Ukraine: what happened and the current status of its nuclear power

Chernobyl is Ukraine's most infamous nuclear site, but the country's six-unit Zaporizhzhya site is Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

Chernobyl is Ukraine’s most infamous nuclear site, but the country’s six-unit Zaporizhzhya site is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Brief Chronicle

Almost all last year Ukraine and the EU were preparing a comprehensive Association Agreement. Most Ukrainians support the aspiration to join the EU and a major political theme was the Association Agreement. Suddenly, a few days before the planned signing of the Agreement, the government and the president interrupted the process. A few days later an agreement with Russia on cheaper gas and huge loans for Ukraine was signed.

As a result, there were mass demonstrations for the Association and against the corrupt government. In fact, the extremely corrupt and lying government is the main cause of the protests. Some protesters erected a tent camp in a central square of Kyiv (Maidan) for long-term protests. But in general everything was peaceful.

On the night of November 30, 2013, the special unit of the police (Berkut) attempted to disperse the camp using brutal force. Unexpectedly, in just a few minutes, thousands of people came to rescue the camp. This cruel police injustice really angered people and on December 8 we had one of the most crowded  rallies in the history of Ukraine. People realized that they can change the government and the protests became fiercer. However, the authorities did not meet the requirements of the protesters. On February 18-20 2014, police and unidentified snipers killed nearly 100 people and injured several hundred. As an answer, rioters started to storm the authority’s buildings.

As a result, the president and several ministers fled the country. Parliament formed a government and appointed a presidential election for May this year. At this time Russia sent troops and occupied the Crimea peninsula. Russian occupation is the biggest problem for Ukraine for now.

State of the nuclear industry

There are well-known pro-nuclear people in the new government. It is difficult to expect any positive changes in the nearest future. The main issues for nuclear power in Ukraine right now are:

*All the nuclear power plants are under heavy military guard. However, Ukraine will be powerless if the Russian troops want to attack these facilities.

*Russia imposed an embargo on the supply of nuclear fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. All Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) use only Russian fuel.

*Nobody knows what will happen with the joint Ukrainian-Russian project for construction of a plant for production of nuclear fuel.

*There were extended life time operations underway on the three oldest Ukrainian nuclear units. There is a plan to extend unit #1 in Zaporozhye NPP. Today we received an informal notice from the Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention about its decision concerning our complaint about life-extension of nuclear reactors. According to the informal message, all decisions to extend the life of a reactor require the Espoo procedures and the decision on life-extension of the units 1 and 2 at the Rivne NPP is a violation of the Convention. We are waiting for confirmation of this information.

*There is a strange situation with plans to construct units 3 and 4 at the Khmelnitsky NPP in western Ukraine. It was planned that the units would be built on top of the basemats that were constructed about 25 years ago. A recent decision by the regulator says the following: the draft project based on at the reactor VVER-392 meets safety requirements, but it does not fit into the existing basemats. There is no information about what the operator is going to do with this decision. The operator cannot build units and it cannot demolish the existing basements as they are situated just a few meters from the existing blocks.

Andriy Martynyuk

Andriy is chair of the board of Ecoclub in Rivne, Ukraine. Ecoclub is part of the international NIRS/WISE network. Andriy can be reached at: martynyuk@ecoclubrivne.org

Permalink: http://safeenergy.org/2014/03/06/guest-post-ukraine-what-happened-and-the- current-status-of-its–nuclear-power/

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