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Corrosive corruption continues in Ukraine’s nuclear industry

Could Ukraine’s nuclear industry face another Chernobyl?

Thirty-five years after the disaster, the nuclear industry is Ukraine’s most reliable economic lifeline. But critics say it faces a perennial crisis caused by corruption, safety problems and politicised decision-making. Aljazeera, 

Mansur Mirovalev, 26 Apr 2021 

  ”………… Kotin had just turned 22 when he was a summer intern at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1983, three years before the disaster.

“After [the explosion] happened, I recalled the situations I was in during my internship in 1983, and I had this feeling of utter horror,” he recalled.

The explosion was hundreds of times more powerful than the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, contaminating an area the size of the United Kingdom in what is now Ukraine, Belarus and Russia………

Corrosive corruption

The 35 years that have passed since the Chernobyl explosion have also brought with them another problem the Soviet nuclear industry never faced: corruption. The nature of a planned economy and constant control of intelligence agencies under the Soviet Union made graft nearly impossible in the industry, but post-Soviet Ukraine became a hotbed of corruption.

In 2020, Ukraine ranked 117 in the worldwide list of 180 nations in the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International, an international corruption monitor – higher than Russia with its number 129 spot.

A string of corruption scandals tainted the industry in post-Soviet Ukraine.

Observers, anti-corruption activists and industry insiders have for years claimed that some Energoatom officials are allegedly corrupt – and their non-transparent deals such as procurement of low-quality equipment may result in a disaster. Occasionally, they face real charges.

In July 2017, the managers of the Southern-Ukrainian nuclear power plant “deliberately purchased counterfeit electric equipment” that could have caused “an emergency of techno-genic character”, according to a laconic statement by the SBU, Ukraine’s Security Service. However, there were no further statements or media reports on the case.

Last October, an explosion in the courtyard of Ukraine’s Supreme Constitutional Court damaged the building’s facade, and the judges claimed it was masterminded by the supporters of former lawmaker and top energy official Mykola Martynenko, who was closely allied with former presidents and prime ministers.

In 2015, Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau accused him of receiving 6.5 million euros ($7.9m) in kickbacks from Energoatom for “helping” arrange contracts to supply equipment from a Czech company. Last June, a Swiss court found him guilty of laundering 2.8 million euros ($3.4m), but his case in Ukraine drags on and on. Martynenko pleaded not guilty.

Even the current team faces corruption allegations.

Last July, Kotin fired Oleh Polishchuk, a whistle-blowing Energoatom official, who complained about purported corruption deals to anti-corruption investigators. In October, Ukraine’s top anti-corruption bureau urged Prime Minister Denys Shmygal to order an investigation into the allegations, and in March, a Kyiv court ruled that the dismissal was illegal.

An industry insider openly accused Kotin’s team of alleged involvement in non-transparent deals, hiding financial information and firing experienced technical staffers and managers.

“They get crazy kickbacks. This is a team of marauders,” Olga Kosharna, an independent nuclear safety expert with decades of experience in the state inspection for nuclear regulation, told Al Jazeera.

Relying on her extensive contacts and unmatched insider information, she insists that corruption is the biggest safety threat to Ukraine’s nuclear industry.

What if there is “an equipment failure if you bought the wrong spare part?” she said…… Mansur Mirovalev grew up in a family of nuclear physicists and covered Russia’s nuclear industry and the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

April 29, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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