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Doubts on the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors

experts are still studying the cancerous, continent-spanning impact of the 1986 meltdown, which took place just outside the small town of Prypyat, some 150 kilometers north of Kyiv, and belched billions of radioactive particles into the wind.

In Ukraine alone, nearly two million people are estimated to have been victims in some way of the disaster, caused by cost-cutting and negligence. The Ukrainian government pays the price today: in compensation to the families of at least 35,000 people who died of Chornobyl related cancers. Across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, fatality estimates reach into the hundreds of thousands

A major complaint is that Energoatom’s environmental impact assessments are unconvincing. Safety and security are insufficiently addressed, waste disposal is barely mentioned and plans to mitigate risks are severely lacking in detail..

Ukraine’s nuclear power disasters may not be over, experts warn, Kyiv Post, By Jack Laurenson. July 19 2019

Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) score poorly on security and are failing to meet some important International Atomic Energy Agency safety requirements. At the Khmelnytsky NPP, the planned addition of two extra reactors (supplied by a controversial, Kremlin-linked company) will go ahead, despite the strong concerns.

After more than three decades in the shadow of the Chornobyl catastrophe — the world’s worst nuclear energy-related disaster — Ukrainians continue to live with nuclear power plants as part of their country’s landscape. A whopping 15 reactors power their towns and cities, while Ukraine’s total installed capacity makes it the seventh-largest nuclear nation in the world today.

At the same time, experts are still studying the cancerous, continent-spanning impact of the 1986 meltdown, which took place just outside the small town of Prypyat, some 150 kilometers north of Kyiv, and belched billions of radioactive particles into the wind.

In Ukraine alone, nearly two million people are estimated to have been victims in some way of the disaster, caused by cost-cutting and negligence. The Ukrainian government pays the price today: in compensation to the families of at least 35,000 people who died of Chornobyl related cancers. Across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, fatality estimates reach into the hundreds of thousands.

Only two nuclear energy-related disasters have been rated at the maximum severity available on the International Nuclear Event Scale: the Chornobyl explosion, and the meltdowns that shook Japan and the world during the 2011 Fukushima disaster. There, some 170,000 evacuees still cannot return to their irradiated homes in the exclusion zone.

Today in Ukraine, difficult questions linger. Have the painful lessons of Chornobyl and Fukushima been learned, and can a country struggling with war, corruption and political turmoil guarantee the safety of its nuclear infrastructure?

Safety, security lacking

These days, at least 55 percent of all Ukrainian electricity comes from its 15 fission reactors, operating at four different nuclear power plants, or NPPs, around the country. They are all operated by the state-owned National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine, widely known as Energoatom.

These nuclear reactors in Ukraine are still not as safe and secure as they could be. They are vulnerable to external shocks, internal sabotage, cybersecurity threats and terrorism, according to shortcomings identified in expert assessments.

Ukraine scored poorly in a 2018 security index published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative organization, scoring 70 out of 100 points, ranking it 30th out of the 45 countries indexed.

The most recent overall safety assessment of all Ukrainian NPPs, completed in 2010 by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, and the European Commission, found that Ukrainian plants were non-compliant with 22 out of 194 vital safety requirements. Weak areas included the “consideration of severe accidents, NPP seismic resistance, completeness of deterministic safety analysis, and post-accident monitoring.”

The National Ecological Center of Ukraine, or NECU, and other nongovernmental organizations here warn that nine Ukrainian nuclear reactors are currently operating beyond their safe lifespan, on the basis of 10-year lifetime extension permits granted following an assessment they have labelled as “deeply flawed.”

And now, in Khmelnytsky Oblast, scientists, experts and campaigners are starting to raise their voices in protest at the latest and perhaps most serious concern.

Experts say that two new reactors which are planned to go into operation there have serious, known safety flaws and do not meet modern safety standards, widely adopted following lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan eight years ago………..

Khmelnytsky expansion

On May 16, a senior official with an Austrian government ministry taking part in talks on the Khmelnytsky project, contacted the Kyiv Post to express concern over its feasibility and safety. The official asked not to be named for fear of jeopardizing talks with Ukrainian counterparts, but shared an official report with the Kyiv Post that makes for alarming reading.

The 87-page report from Austria’s environment agency was commissioned by the country’s Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism. Its lead authors are two Austrian scientists — Oda Becker, a physicist specializing in nuclear safety, and Gabriele Mraz, an expert on nuclear policy.

A major complaint is that Energoatom’s environmental impact assessments are unconvincing. Safety and security are insufficiently addressed, waste disposal is barely mentioned and plans to mitigate risks are severely lacking in detail.

And Energoatom’s plan to simply “continue” construction of facilities that would house KhNPP 3&4 is unthinkable, because the partially-finished constructions have been largely abandoned for nearly three decades and are no longer suitable, the report’s authors said.

“I was surprised that (KhNPP 3&4) was restarted…the site is in ruins… nothing has been done to protect the construction and the conditions there,” the official said.

The official asked how anyone can “think of using this ruin to build a nuclear power plant,” considering that the site and components had been exposed to ice, snow and rain over the years.

The experts also voiced concerns over the shady choice of supplier for the two new reactors.

Energoatom has selected a type of Russian-built reactor from the Czech-based (but ultimately Russian-owned) company Škoda JS. The reactor is cheap and fits within the existing, partially abandoned buildings, but features a number of known safety deficiencies, according to experts.

“They wanted a cheaper reactor — but this reactor is not considered good enough and it lacks safety features that have become required after what we learned since Fukushima,” the official said.

The Kyiv Post repeatedly tried to speak with Energoatom about its plans for the Khmelnytsky NPP, but the agency was uncooperative. Ultimately, Energoatom did not provide information or answer questions by deadline.Unanswered questions

In the report from Vienna seen by the Kyiv Post, the Austrian environment agency poses at least 89 separate questions to Energoatom which it said had so far gone unanswered. Some questions are highly technical, while others address issues of basic safety and security. The authors state that the Ukrainian side has not responded to many questions, or have provided materials that are insufficient and do not address their concerns.

Questions relating to the proposed choice of a reactor, a VVER‑1000/V‑320, and its safety deficiencies, are raised repeatedly. It states that the Ukrainian side has not sufficiently demonstrated how it will cope with any of the “known safety issues” of the reactors……… https://www.kyivpost.com/business/ukraines-nuclear-power-disasters-may-not-be-over-experts-warn.html?cn-reloaded=1

July 20, 2019 - Posted by | safety, Ukraine

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