The date of April 26, 2014 marks the 28th anniversary of the catastrophic explosion of the 4th reactor at the Chernobyl power plant. This is the time when alarming news is coming to evoke concern over the future of Ukraine’s nuclear industry.
The use of US-produced fuel for Soviet reactors is not compatible with their design and violates the security requirements. It could lead to disasters comparable with what happened in Chernobyl. The International Union of Veterans of Nuclear Energy and Industry (IUVNEI) issued the following statement on April 25,
“Nuclear fuel produced by the US firm Westinghouse does not meet the technical requirements of Soviet-era reactors, and using it could cause an accident on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster, which took place on the 26th April 1986.”
The IUVNEI brings together more than 15,000 nuclear industry veterans from Armenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine. It was founded in 2010 and headquartered in Moscow.
The Ukrainian state enterprise Energoatom and the Westinghouse Company previously agreed to extend the contract for the supply of US nuclear fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants until 2020.
Two years ago, there was a near-miss in Ukraine, when TVS-W with damaged distancing armatures risked substantial uncontrolled releases of dangerous radiation. Only by a miracle was there no disaster at the South Ukrainian nuclear power plant. But it did not prevent the signing of the agreement. A Czech nuclear power plant faced depressurization of the fuel elements produced by Westinghouse in 2006, followed by the Czech government abandoning the company as a fuel supplier. According to Yuri Nedashkovsky, the president of the country’s state-owned nuclear utility Energoatom, on April 23, 2014 the Ukraine’s interim government ordered to allocate 45, 2 hectares of land for the construction of a nuclear waste storage site within the depopulated exclusion area around the plant of Chernobyl between villages Staraya Krasnitsa, Buryakovka, Chistogalovka and Stechanka in Kiev Region (the Central Spent Fuel Storage Project for Ukraine’s VVER reactors). The fuel is to come from Khmelnitsky, Rovno and South Ukraine nuclear power plants.
At present used fuel is mostly transported to new dry-storage facility at the Zheleznogorsk Mining and Chemical Factory in the Krasnoyarsk region and storage and reprocessing plant Mayak in the Chelyabinsk region, the both facilities are situated on the territory of Russian Federation.
In 2003 Ukraine started to look for alternatives to the Russian storages. In December 2005, Energoatom signed a 127, 75 million euro agreement with the US-based Holtec International to implement the Central Spent Fuel Storage Project for Ukraine’s VVER reactors. Holtec’s work involved design, licensing, construction, commissioning of the facility, and the supply of transport and vertical ventilated dry storage systems for used VVER nuclear fuel. By the end of 2011 Holtec International had to close its office in Kiev as it had come under harsh criticism worldwide. It is widely believed that the company has lost licenses in several countries because of poor quality of its containers resulting in radiation leaks. Westinghouse and Holtec are members of U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC).
Morgan Williams, President/CEO of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council, works in Ukraine since the 1990s said at the ceremony devoted to Westinghouse Electric Company and Holtec International signing contracts with Ukraine in 2008:
“Today is one of the most important days since Ukraine’s independence as the efforts of these two internationally known companies will go a long way to assuring that Ukraine has greater energy independence. This is made more important by the fact that for Ukraine, energy and political independence are closely interdependent. I join all of the USUBC members in toasting the success of these two great member companies, as we all work to assist Ukraine on its path to Euro-Atlantic integration and a strong democratic, private market driven nationhood.”
Morgan Williams is known as a lobbyist representing the interests of Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil in Ukraine. He has close ties with Freedom House involved in staging “color revolutions” in Eurasia, North Africa and Latin America.
One more interesting detail is to be mentioned here. Some time ago it was reported that according to covert agreements reached between the Ukraine’s interim government and its European partners, the nuclear waste coming from the EU member states will be stored in Ukraine.
Being in violation of law the deal is kept secret.
Leonid Savin is an Russian expert on international conflicts, editor-in-chief of Geopolitica.ru news, analysis and forecast online journal.