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Energoatom lawsuit against Ukrainian activists is the latest attempt to stifle public debate over an ageing nuclear energy fleet

A Kiev court held yesterday the first hearing in a case brought by Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear power plants operator, against the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine (NECU), a civil society group, member of the CEE Bankwatch Network.

Energoatom accuses the activists of supposedly spreading false information on those of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors operating beyond their design lifetime.

Energoatom refers to NECU’s press release from May 15, 2015, which reported that unit 2 in the South Ukraine nuclear power plant is not in compliance with the requirements to safely operate in electricity production mode. The group also warned in that press release, that decisions taken by Ukrainian authorities regarding nuclear units’ operation beyond their design lifetime lack crucial substantiation. In its lawsuit, Energoatom asked the court to order NECU to publish a statement on its website saying some of the information in the original press release was false.

Read more

Operations suspended at one Ukrainian nuclear unit, as wider safety doubts persist
Bankwatch Mail article | May 14, 2015


Ukraine's nuclear lifetime extensions

More background & updates

In April, two weeks before this 30 years old nuclear reactor reached the end of its design lifetime, the board of Ukraine’s nuclear energy regulator SNRIU acknowledged the unit has 41 deviations from safety standards. Consequently, the nuclear unit was not granted a permission to continue operation and it has been shut down since. Its restart, the board ruled, would only be considered once all required measures and safety upgrades are completed.

“This lawsuit was filed simply because we dared to openly call things what they are in reality,” says Iryna Holovko, NECU and CEE Bankwatch Network campaigner in Ukraine. “Nuclear units with compromised safety can not be considered safe and citizens, in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries, must be aware of that. We believe our moral obligation is to inform public of the situation as it is.”

Ukrainian environmental NGOs – including Ecoclub-Rivne, NECU and others – have been campaigning since more than five years for of the public's right to be fully informed and engaged in the decision-making process regarding the prolonged operation of nuclear units beyond their design expiration date. This year civil society groups in five EU countries have joined the campaign to demand citizens in Ukraine's neighbourhood are fully informed about the potential transboundary implications of these plans and have a say in the process.

In fact, the EU is actively involved in the revival of Ukraine's nuclear energy. Energoatom enjoys generous financial support from Euratom and from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to implement safety upgrades in its nuclear units, which are in turn used for legitimising a postponed expiry date. Yet, it has been continuously ignoring Ukraine's legal obligations under the Aarhus and Espoo Conventions for transboundary consultations, which are also conditions to these European loans.

In July this year 25 Members of the European Parliament have signed a letter to Euratom and the EBRD asking they suspend their loans for Ukraine's safety upgrade programme until the country complies with the relevant international legal obligations.

“If Energoatom is concerned about its reputation it would be wiser to directly engage with the public on its plans and their long term implications rather than trying to stifle civil society critique,” says Holovko.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for September 28, 2015.

For more information contact:

Iryna Holovko
National campaigner for Ukraine
CEE Bankwatch Network
Tel.+380 50 647 6700

Note to editors:

For more on Ukraine's nuclear units lifetime extension program see here: http://bankwatch.org/our-work/projects/nuclear-power-plant-safety-upgrad...

Image by Rebecca Barray (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)