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Ukraine – insecure, corrupt, – on Chernobyl anniversary – the nuclear danger

For security reasons, Australia has suspended uranium sales to Russia. It seems extraordinary that Australia should now enter into a deal with even more unsafe and unstable Ukraine, in its present war and political crisis.


flag-UkraineFour big reasons not to sell uranium to Ukraine,8895  Noel Wauchope 18 April 2016 As the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster approaches, Noel Wauchope outlines just a few compelling reasons why the Coalition Government’s uranium deal with Ukraine may have further disastrous consequences.

WHAT AMAZINGLY insensitive timing! As the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe approaches, Australia makes a deal (at the Nuclear Security Summit) to sell uranium to Ukraine.

This is such a bad idea for so many reasons — it’s hard to know which to pick first!

Economics: simply because uranium exporting is not really economically worthwhile.

chernobylChernobyl’s plight: because Ukraine’s Chernobyl radioactive disaster is continuing. (We supplied uranium for that other catastrophe — Fukushima.)

Insecurity: Ukraine’s dangerous nuclear industry due to civil war, ageing reactors, risks of smuggling and terrorism.

Political crisis: Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt and unstable political regime.

Let’s check those four reasons.


The global uranium industry is in a declining state. Price reporting companies describe repeated low and falling uranium prices. Australia’s uranium industry now accounts for 0.2 per cent of national export revenue — and that’s not counting profits that go overseas, due to the high degree of foreign ownership of companies mining uranium in Australia.

Chernobyl’s plight

The 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear accident is on 26 April 2016. Ukraine is still suffering from, and struggling with, the legacy of that radioactive catastrophe. The conservativeWorld Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the radiation caused deaths at 4,000 — based on itsreport ‘Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes’. The 2016 TORCH (The Other Report on Chernobyl) Report amplifies this discussion (summary here) but all sources agree that no conclusive figure can be given.

The legacy of the accident includes the struggle to contain the radioactivity of the shattered reactor.

Ukraine seeks international funds to complete its new concrete tomb being built over the reactor, the old cover having decayed to an unsafe state. The reactor itself is still too contaminated for workers to approach. Removal of radioactive materials there will begin only after the new confinement structure has been finished. But experts believe that it will contain radioactivity for only 30 years .


This issue of nuclear security is another irony in this uranium sales deal. Julie Bishop and Ukraine President used the meeting of the Nuclear Security Summit in New York to discuss the sale. The focus of the Summit was the need to protect radioactive materials from dangerous zones, and from the risk of terrorists obtaining them.

You couldn’t pick a more dangerous zone than Ukraine

Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear facility is Europe’s largest and is only 200 kilometres from the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. Already there have been sabotage events that affected its nuclear programme.

All of these events have led to an additional emergency shutdown of the electrical network of two units at thermal power plants – the Dnieper and Uglegorskaya – and the emergency unloading by 500 MW of nuclear power plants in Ukraine. This includes Zaporozhskaya NPP and the South Ukrainian NPP. I want to stress that such emergency unloading of a nuclear plant – it is very dangerous. ~ Senior Ukrainian energy official Yuriy Katich.

Some commentators have described nuclear plants in the region as pre-deployed nuclear targets and there have already been armed incursions during the recent conflict period.

Bankwatch recently listed 10 reasons why Ukraine’s nuclear power stations are a security danger for Europe. These include Ukraine’s ageing reactors – some already having exceeded their planned lifespan – and restrictions on the nuclear regulator’s ability to inspect reactors. Bankwatch regards Ukraine as a huge financial risk to Europe:

The European Commission, the European Parliament, and EU governments – particularly in neighouring countries that could be affected by the Ukrainian government’s reckless nuclear adventure – need to demand Ukraine complies with its international obligations, especially when EU public money is involved.

Petro Poroshenko’s Government is responding to Bankwatch’s criticism with a lawsuit against Bankwatch’s member group National Ecological Centre of Ukraine (NECU), in an attempt to silence criticism and avoid public scrutiny. Organisations in five European countries have joined in a campaign for transparency about Ukraine’s nuclear programme.

Even Ukraine’s own Progress Report to the Nuclear Security Summit admits some safety problems, listing over 1400 sources of ionising radiation that are not under regulatory control.

Ukraine now has a messy and competitive nuclear power system, in which Western companiesAREVA and Westinghouse compete in marketing and upgrading nuclear reactors and lobby to sell nuclear fuel. But Russia actually controls the fuel supply, providing nuclear fuel to 13 out of Ukraine’s 15 reactors.

Ukraine is just next door to Moldova, the heart of a 2014 nuclear smuggling gang. With Ukraine’s secretive nuclear arrangements, and inadequate regulatory system, the possibility of theft of radioactive materials is a real one in Ukraine.

Political crisis

 If you thought that Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory regime was dubious, what about its political regime?   Many see corruption as Ukraine’s greatest danger. Russia was notorious for its oligarchs, but to some extent they were held in check. Not in Ukraine, where oligarchs appropriated government money to become very wealthy, using some of their wealth to buy politicians and set up a “convenient’ political system.

Oligarchs are reported to control 70 per cent of the state’s economy. The country has been described as a “cleptocracy” —with so much intrigue amongst corrupt politicians and oligarchs that it’s called “Ukraine’s Deep State”.

President Petro Poroshenko himself is a very successful businessman, whose business assets have increased over the past year. Before the last election, Poroshenko pledged to sell his company Roshen but now refuses to do so. He also owns a major TV channel. His private assets are larger than those of any other European leader. Poroshenko is currently involved in a real estate scandal.

Along with lawmaker and business partner Ihor Kononenko, Poroshenko is co-owner of the International Investment Bank. Kononenko is accused of being involved in a laundering scheme that moves money from Ukrprominvest (a group founded by Kononenko and Poroshenko) to the British Virgin Islands through offshore companies Intraco Management Ltd and Ernion. Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, who worked to expose political corruption, resigned in disgust on 3 February, saying:

“Neither me nor my team have any desire to serve as a cover-up for the covert corruption, or become puppets for those who, very much like the “old” government, are trying to exercise control over the flow of public funds”.  

Aivaras claimed that Prime Minister Mr Yatsenyuk and Mr Poroshenko were blocking reforms aimed at tackling corruption. Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned suddenly on 11 April, under pressure from Poroshenko, who has replaced him with close associate, Volodymyr Groysman. Several reformers from Ukraine’s previous government are departing after declining to serve under Mr Groysman.

The West is watching the Ukrainian regime carefully. The IMF has been providing a $17.5 billion support scheme to cash-strapped Ukraine but has put it on hold, due to the corruption and instability of the regime.

Early this month, the Netherlands held a referendum regarding a potential Ukraine-EU treaty on closer political and economic ties. A whopping 61 per cent (2.509 million people) voted against Ukraine’s association with the EU. European nations, as well as many Ukrainians share in loss of confidence in the government, following this referendum as well as revelations of scandals in the Prosecutor General’s Office.

All this concern came to a head with the revelations of the Panama Papers, in which President Poroshenko figures largely. Unlike Iceland’s President, Poroshenko has no intention of resigning. The West has been very quiet about the allegations against him — presumably they support anyone who is opposed to Russia’s Putin.

Poroshenko claims that his financial arrangements have all been legal. But not everyone agrees with that. Igor Lutsenko, a member of Verkhovna Rada, Supreme Council of Ukraine, outlines how Poroshenko violated Ukrainian law in setting up the British Virgin Islands firm

For security reasons, Australia has suspended uranium sales to Russia. It seems extraordinary that Australia should now enter into a deal with even more unsafe and unstable Ukraine, in its present war and political crisis.

No doubt the federal parliament’s influential Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) will examine the planned deal, that Julie Bishop signed up to in New York with Ukrainian Energy and Coal Industry Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn.

JSCOT recently warned against the agreement to sell uranium to India but its recommendations were ignored by the Coalition Government. Here’s hoping that there will be scrutiny on the Ukrainian agreement and that the government will pay attention.


April 20, 2016 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics, safety, Ukraine


  1. I’m grateful that you are still writing your own pieces even while doing all of your other work. I appreciate and admire your vigilance, devotion, efficiency, hard work and talent more than I could ever express. And, I haven’t said it enough.

    Someone pointed out that on the 30th Anniversary of Chernobyl: “MEETING MATERIALS: CONSENT-BASED SITING PUBLIC MEETING IN SACRAMENTO (APRIL 26, 2016)” Do they not want people to forget the date or are they psycho?

    Japan is arguably “western” but with all of the conspiracy theories it’s worth recalling:
    Westinghouse is based in the USA but ownership is Japan’s Toshiba (87%) (majority owner), Kazakstan State owned Kazatomprom (10%) Japan’s IHI (3%)

    Comment by miningawareness | April 20, 2016 | Reply

    • Mutual admiration society? I am so impressed with YOUR comprehensive and detailed articles. Particularly interesting – the saga of Holtec – a company that is pushing to get its nuclear waste storage industry happening in Australia.

      Comment by Christina MacPherson | April 20, 2016 | Reply

      • Many thanks. I know now that you capture everything so that I can work on some detail. And, thanks for the intel. They are trying to get in Australia too? They are at Chernobyl now. Donna Gilmore has collected almost everything technical on Holtec canisters-casks here: I thought Holtec was old news in that it appears that the new idea is to let people debate the location while nuclear gov officials plan to declad the fuel and dilute and bury-dump-inject. I suspect that if the US DOE gets by with bringing in foreign waste, diluting it and burying it, then they will do it for all high level waste. They may have been doing this all along, as there was a German nuclear waste scandal in the late 80s which involved improper labeling of waste and illegal N. Sea dumping, and a US scandal in the early 90s involving improper labeling and illegal burning and dumping of DOE rad waste in 60 US locations. I suspect ocean dumping continues based on weird zig-zag of some nuclear waste ships. The old spent fuel canister-casks are going to remain a problem for a long time, however. They have been packing broken fuel (in US public record) and there are all sorts of other issues (e.g. aluminum basket). Most nuclear waste is metals that react-corrode. A model was made last year showing that the canister-casks won’t last long, but government officials (some US state and maybe Fed) who have the model-info are sitting on it. This makes me very angry! I think that the model conclusion was similar to the conclusions on the San Onofre web site based on Koeberg S. Africa – that they would last less than 20 years, but without the model or anything written I’m not certain. It’s common sense though that 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) is too thin for such a huge thing. I hope that something will come out on Holtec owner Kris Pal Singh in the Panama Papers. There is another K. Pal Singh in there who is in construction. There was Holtec India concrete before Holtec USA. I remain amazed that Kris Singh and the father of the Governor of S. Carolina (Nikki Haley) are from the same village and maybe kin. US immigration from India is mostly from the last 50 years and they seem to be mostly Sikh. Having the money to immigrate and piggy-back of relatives must explain kinship ties which appear far-fetched. The US has as many Sikhs as Britain. Many came via Canada. Most people from India living in Britain are non-Sikh. Yet, UK Madame Verma who was promoting nuclear is Sikh. CNN Sanjay Gupta is involved in the promotion of Holtec Small Modular Reactors. I think that this is the next Holtec menace, as you have pointed out. It is important to note that more than one USNRC engineer from India, including one Sikh, were in the brave 7 demanding something be done about the Nuclear reactor electric defect. For the nuclear waste we need to be watching EnergySolutions, now owned-run by former Goldman Sachs investment bankers. They are in Japan even. They are trying to buy the west Texas dump (WCS). While I would be inclined to think that the US turning itself into a nuclear waste dump is good news for Australia, I fear that there is plenty of radioactive waste to spread around. So, it may be bad news for Australia in setting a bad example. Vigilance remains in order everywhere. Sorry this comment is long but it just scratches the surface.

        Comment by miningawareness | April 21, 2016

  2. Holtec put a picture of their Sanjay Gupta, probably under pressure from CNN. It isn’t the same Sanjay Gupta as CNN, based on the picture, they were misleading people on this one. I found this old comment of mine while doing searches on the topic. Somehow I got back onto Tequesta. There is a Tequesta in Hong Kong which was used by the Guptas to fleece South Africa. There is a Kris Singh of Holtec Tequesta. Tequesta is an American Indian tribe from Florida. I believe more and more that Holtec is connected to the South Africa Gupta scandal. Guptas were involved in uranium mining. (PS: Hope you enjoy(ed) the holidays.)

    Comment by miningawareness | October 10, 2018 | Reply

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