Skip to content

Could Ukraine’s nuclear industry face another Chernobyl? via Al Jazeera

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.

By Mansur Mirovalev26 Apr 2021

Kyiv, Ukraine – The radioactive cloud that briefly hovered over most of Europe after the April 26, 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station had, after all, a silver lining, Petro Kotin says.

Thirty-five years after a botched security test caused the worst nuclear disaster in history, he is at the helm of Energoatom, a state-run consortium in charge of Ukraine’s four nuclear stations and their 15 reactors.

“We are unique because no other nation has the practical experience of overcoming such a disaster,” Kotin, who was appointed as Energoatom’s acting president in March 2020, told Al Jazeera in his office in central Kyiv.

The stations he manages generate half the electricity for the ex-Soviet nation of 43 million people, placing Ukraine on the list of the world’s top-10 nuclear energy producers.


After annexing Crimea in 2014, Moscow backed separatists in two southeastern provinces where most of Ukraine’s coal used for energy generation is mined. The Kremlin also spiked natural gas prices, hobbling Ukraine’s outdated, energy-inefficient industries and burdening average Ukrainians with hefty heating bills.


But domestic and international critics claim that the industry faces a perennial crisis caused by corruption; safety problems with ageing, worn reactors; disruption of ties with a Russian nuclear monopoly; and a politicised switch to US-made nuclear fuel.

Industry insiders, environmentalists and politicians claim that the construction of a spent fuel storage facility near the capital, Kyiv, and the proximity of Europe’s largest nuclear station in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia to Europe’s hottest armed conflict add to their concerns about the possibility of a nuclear incident, particularly in a nation that went through two popular uprisings since 2005 and lost a chunk of its territory to Russia.


Sounds simple. But uranium dioxide sealed in zirconium alloy tubes in the rods emits radiation that has to be contained in hermetically sealed reactors. Ukraine’s Soviet-designed rods are hexagonal, resembling bee cells, while Western-made rods are square.

The switch is far from simple – but necessary, because Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear monopoly that charged Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is controlled by the Kremlin. And the Kremlin has a well-known proclivity to use energy supplies as a political cudgel.

In 2005, Ukraine’s first anti-Russian uprising, dubbed the Orange Revolution, installed a pro-Western government that immediately started looking for ways to wean the nuclear industry off the Russian fuel.

It chose Westinghouse Electric Company LLC, a Pittsburg-based nuclear energy giant. Some experts and politicians warned that Westinghouse-made fuel rods may unseal and potentially cause a reactor to melt.

“The switch to Westinghouse fuel is potentially dangerous,” Oskar Njaa, the Russia and Eastern Europe adviser for Bellona, a Norway-based nuclear industry monitor, told Al Jazeera.

In 2012, Westinghouse fuel rods had to be removed from the South Ukrainian power station after protective envelopes in two reactors were damaged.

Ukraine asked Rosatom for fuel and help – prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to remark gloatingly that Rosatom experts had “to solve complex technical problems, take [the Westinghouse fuel] out and load the Russian fuel back in”.

Ukraine’s losses amounted to $175 million, Mikhail Gashev, Ukraine’s top nuclear safety inspector at the time, claimed – and banned the use of Westinghouse fuel.


Apart from the fuel, observers are also concerned about Ukraine’s ageing, worn reactors, 12 of which began operating in the 1980s and were supposed to be shut down in 2020. But Energoatom extended their lifespan spending hundreds of millions on each, thanks largely to loans from the European Union.

This is a common practice worldwide – the average lifespan of almost 100 nuclear reactors in the US is 40 years, and 88 have been approved for another 20 years. But some experts are worried about the safety measures and upgrades.

“What we witness every time a decision [to extend the lifespan] is made, some of the safety upgrades have either not been made or have not been made in full,” Iryna Holovko, the Ukraine coordinator for Bankwatch, a Prague-based environmentalist group, told Al Jazeera.

Bankwatch has for years been urging Ukraine to stop extending the lifespan of its “zombie reactors” without correcting “safety deviations” and detailed assessments of all the environmental risks for the people living around the stations and in neighbouring nations.


Read more.

Posted in *English.

Tagged with , , , , .

17 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. official site says

    Thanks for sharing.I found a lot of interesting information here.

  2. dark web links says

    The Dark Web is often equated with illegal and dangerous materials found on the Internet, but this is not always true. While the Internet has a lot to offer, including access to music and videos, it can also be used for dangerous activities such as selling and buying illegal drugs on the Internet. It is easy to find drugs on the Dark Web, thanks to “back door” connections and marketing techniques that have allowed users to bypass firewalls and other protection measures to reach these websites. With an estimated 50% of new drugs being sold through the Internet, the dark web is clearly becoming more of a threat to the safety of the general public.

  3. dark web links says

    Can I make money on the dark web with my inbound links? The answer to this question will largely depend on how much time you are willing to spend. You can start by using common sense and researching the market for the best affiliate programs. You can also start with basic SEO techniques and use these to build a solid foundation. When you are comfortable with all of this, then you are ready to start adding inbound links to your site.

  4. Lock Changing Tempe AZ says

    Good artcile, but it would be better if in future you can share more about this subject. Keep posting.
    Lock Changing Tempe AZ

  5. Muds Management says

    Good one, for recovery of any sort of bad debt there are few debt recovery agencies in india that help creditors recover their debt and easing their burden.

  6. CSM ONLINE says

    Useful content


    Excellent blog.

  8. CSM training online says

    Amazing things


    Very good blog


    Thanks for sharing this informative content.,

  11. Scrum master certification online says

    Very helful blog,thanks


    Best blog ever

  13. aomei partition crack says

    The handset is integrated with Bluetooth headsets, and the mobile phone will directly be incorporated into the model and architecture of this mid-range model. aomei partition assistant crack

  14. kitchen says

    آشپزخانهٔ کامل یعنی آشپزخانه‌ای که برایتان رفاه به همراه می‌آورد؛ عمده فروشی لوازم آشپزخانه یعنی در آن وسایل ضروری موجود است و برای پخت‌وپز غذاهای مختلف، همه‌چیز در دسترس‌تان قرار دارد.

  15. adobe photoshop cc crack says

    webroot secureanywhere antivirus key crack license is the latest protection package for a much better security policy on your Windows computer. You can find impressive features integrated into this article. webroot key is a lightweight antivirus that protects your device from virus-like threats through cloud-based protection. free webroot keycode delivers cloud-based security technology.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.