Nuclear Energy in Ukraine

Environmentalists warn of danger from the operation of old nuclear reactors

November 25, 2010, Rivne, Ukraine. – NGOs representatives call the officials attention to the danger posed by the operation of two nuclear reactors at Rivne Nuclear Power Plant, design life of which will expire next year. A few weeks later, on December 10, officials will have a meeting at Rivne Nuclear Power Plant where they will decide on the life extension for two nuclear reactors, already operating for 30 years.

The first signs of reactors aging are difficult to be detected as they occur on a microscopic level of materials structure and therefore they usually become apparent only after the accident has taken place. The inspectors, who examine the units at RNPP, can give only a rough assessment of the equipment condition. For example, the probability of serious accident at the NPP is estimated as 10^-5 (one accident per hundred thousand years), while in fact such accidents occur every few years. So even after a thorough check a significant probability of failure at RNPP still remains, and with the age increase the probability of nuclear accident increases.

“It is worthy of adding that the oldest in Ukraine WWER-440 reactors, the lifetime of which is planned to be extended, were recognized by the Western European Nuclear Regulators’ Association (WENRA) as such which security is impossible to be raised to the acceptable level” – says Andriy Martyniuk, Chair of the board, Ecoclub NGO (Rivne). “At the same time, the Parliament has been spending decommissioning funds for purposes that are far from that intended for years. So the situation, put it mildly, is strange: the old units are dangerous but the money for their decommissioning has long been spent on unknown purposes.

The second reason is that extending lifetime of these two reactors makes Ukraine more dependent on one manufacturer of nuclear fuel, a Russian company TVEL, which is the only company in the world producing fuel for the two outdated reactors. As regards all other nuclear units, Ukraine can buy nuclear fuel from other suppliers, but for those two oldest in Ukraine there is no other choice.

The next reason is economic inexpedience.

“Today our country and its neighbors do not have such demand for electricity to use all Ukrainian nuclear units. This means that funds that were invested in the units will never return. The rate of electricity from nuclear power does not cover the cost needed to solve the problems associated with NPP radioactive nuclear waste and its closedown. So the operation of old nuclear units will not only fail to bring profits, on the contrary it will inflict losses”- says Arthur Denysenko, Energy Program Coordinator, NECU.

“The first and second reactors at RNPP are so old that anyway they will have to be closed one day. And their later closure will cost much more than it may cost now. While there is no demand for electricity from these units it is necessary to start closing them. This will save public funds and eliminate possible threat to the Ukrainian population and nature”, – says Dmytro Khmara, energy expert, the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine.

According to the experts from the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine, the best solution in terms of energy, environmental and economic feasibility is the gradual decommissioning of old nuclear power plants once their lifetime has expired. Money, planned to be spent on their extension, should be channeled for enhancement of energy efficiency in industry and residential sector.

NECU research on the problem of life extension for old nuclear reactors (in Ukrainian and Russain):

For more information please contact:

Dmytro Khmara,
Energy Expert,
National Ecological Centre of Ukraine
Phone: 044 353 78 41, 050 693 24 04

Andriy Martyniuk,
Chair of the board
Ecoclub NGO, Rivne
Phone: (0362) 23 70 24, 097 235 92 32

Artur Denysenko,
Energy Program Coordinator
National Ecological Centre of Ukraine
Phone: 044 353 78 41, 067 947 28 47