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Nuclear waste stored in ‘shocking’ way 120 miles from Ukrainian front line via The Guardian

Experts raise concerns over waste stored in the open air at Europe’s largest nuclear power station, as the conflict increases Ukraine’s reliance on power from its ageing plants

Concerns have been raised by environmentalists and atomic power experts over the way waste is being stored at Europe’s largest nuclear power station, in crisis-ridden Ukraine.

More than 3,000 spent nuclear fuel rods are kept inside metal casks within towering concrete containers in an open-air yard close to a perimeter fence at Zaporizhia, the Guardian discovered on a recent visit to the plant, which is 124 miles (200km) from the current front line.

“With a war around the corner, it is shocking that the spent fuel rod containers are standing under the open sky, with just a metal gate and some security guards waltzing up and down for protection,” said Patricia Lorenz, a Friends of the Earth nuclear spokeswoman who visited the plant on a fact-finding mission.

“I have never seen anything like it,” she added. “It is unheard of when, in Germany, interim storage operators have been ordered by the court to terror-proof their casks with roofs and reinforced walls.”

Industry experts said that ideally the waste store would have a secondary containment system such as a roof.

[…]

The share of Ukrainian electricity provided by nuclear rose by around 10% in the last year, as conflict in the Donbass region threw Russian gas supplies into doubt.

Coal supplies too had to be tortuously re-routed from Ukraine’s east through Russia, to keep up a pretence they are being sourced internationally and avoid the impression of buying energy direct from the separatist rebels who are fighting Ukrainian soldiers.

As a result, uranium fuel supplies are fast becoming a new east-west battlefield in the post-Soviet great energy game.

“Nuclear energy is the only possible option for us to replace the generated electricity that we lost [from coal and gas],” a government source told the Guardian. “After the start of open war with Russia, it was understood that all our other strategies in the energy sphere would become impossible.”

Some 60% of Ukraine’s electricity is now produced by 15 ageing reactors – concentrated in four giant plants. Nine of these will reach the end of their design lifetimes in the next five years, and three have already.

Most of Ukraine’s nuclear fleet depends on Russia’s Rosatom to supply its enriched uranium fuel – and to whisk away the resulting radioactive waste for storage.

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