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Unsafe, unreliable- Vladimir Slivyak’s verdict on Russian nuclear reactors

safety-symbol1flag_RussiaReactors from Russia are unsafe and unreliable, India shouldn’t buy them: Russian environmentalist Vladimir Slivyak, 9 Jan 15 “………….Over a dozen incidents and failures have already occurred at the newly built VVER at Kalinin NPP, including one involving a hydrogen explosion.

The Russian fast breeder reactor – the only commercial unit of this type in the world – has in its over 30 years of operation experienced almost as many various accidents, including fires involving radioactive substances and coolant leaks.

Further development of the breeder technology planned by Rosatom in Russia includes experiments with plutonium fuel. VVER-1200s are also designed to operate with plutonium fuel. Introducing this nuclear material into electricity generation on an industrial scale will likely lead to new accidents that will result in plutonium contamination.

Additionally, eleven old RBMK units – all variations on the Chernobyl design – still remain in operation in Russia.

Rosatom continues to reprocess spent nuclear fuel at the disastrous Mayak facility. Not only is the stockpile of extracted plutonium growing, but there is also a constant significant increase in volumes of radioactive waste resulting from reprocessing. The Mayak nuclear facility in Chelyabinsk Region was a place of a devastating nuclear accident of 1957, which caused widespread radioactive contamination and led to the resettlement of about 20,000 of local residents in the subsequent years.

Unfortuntely, several thousands of local residents still have to  live in contaminated area because Rosatom doesn’t take responsibility for their resettlement and people themselves are too poor to move away. That’s best illustration of what is safety culture and social responsibility in understanding of the Russian nuclear industry.

Russia has no realistic and viable plan for the disposal of radioactive waste. The risk of radioactive leaks from the aging radioactive waste storage facilities is increasing. Rosatom’s attempts to build new disposal sites for radioactive waste in several regions of Russia have been met by harsh opposition from local populations and environmental groups. But even if such sites were ultimately built, their capacity would be enough to take care of only a small fraction of the waste accumulated over many decades.

How strong is the nuclear safety regulation in Russia? What have been post-Fukushima changes?

Unfortunately, it’s far from strong. In 1990s we had special safety regulator, Gosatomnadzor (or GAN). It was reporting directly to the president of country and was able to confront Rosatom on the most important safety issues. I mean there is certain difference in mandates  of operator and regulator, and they must be in confrontation to improve the safety. When regulator becomes a friend to operator we are getting into Japanese situation which in the end bring us to another Fukushima sort of disaster. But that’s not the way it went in Russia. Rosatom successfully lobbied for dissolving of independent GAN. And finally it became just the department inside of another bigger structure, without any ability to control. After Fukushima, regulator proposed to close several old reactors down but that was easily ignored by Rosatom who said Russian reactors are best in the world and Fukushima would never happen in Russia. Something like that was said by Western industry after Chernobyl and all wanted to believe in it until Western-designed Fukushima exploded several times.

The Russian nuclear giant, Atomsroyeport, has been clearly unwilling to abide by the Indian liability law which has a clause on supliers liability in case of an accident. What does it say on their claims of safety?

It just confirms old fact that there is no 100% safe reactors. Which means, sooner or later, new Chernobyl or new Fukushima (or both) will happen again somewhere in the world. Russian industry knows very well that their reactors have vulnerabilities. And they don’t want to pay in case of another Chernobyl which they know is possible. Just like the owner of Fukushima is not paying to Japanese people……….


January 14, 2015 - Posted by | Reference, Russia, safety

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