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Second life: The questionable safety of life extensions for Russian nuclear power plants via The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

In response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, countries such as Germany and Switzerland are preparing to phase out aging nuclear power plants. The Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom), however, is taking a very different approach. In 2001, Rosatom began extending the operation of nuclear power plants that had surpassed their projected life spans. More recently, Sergey Kiryenko, the chief executive of Rosatom, confirmed that Rosatom intends to give all of its aging reactors a new lease on life, including water-cooled, graphite moderated RBMK reactors like the one that exploded at Chernobyl in 1986. Under Rosatom’s plan, the youngest of these reactors would continue operating until 2035.

Many of the country’s experts and non-governmental organizations maintain that this decision is economically unjustifiable and environmentally dangerous — to say nothing of illegal. The Russian nuclear industry, however, argues that lifetime extensions are justified because the original estimate of a 30-year life span was conservative; the plants have been significantly upgraded; and extensions cost significantly less than constructing new reactors.

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