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Ukraine's Nukes Are in Breach of UN Convention

Kiev – Ukraine’s expansion of the lifetime of its old nuclear reactors is in breach of the UN Espoo Convention, ruled the body monitoring the implementation of this international agreement, because Kiev went ahead with the prolongation of the use of its old reactors without assessing the impact this may have on neighbouring countries.

In a letter to the Ukrainian Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Implementation Committee under the Espoo Convention wrote that Ukraine was in breach of the UN Convention that the country ratified in 1999.

In its national Energy Strategy, Ukraine envisages prolonging the lifetime of 12 old nuclear reactors, whose licence for operation would otherwise expire by 2020. Kiev has already renewed licences for two units (Rivne 1 and Rivne 2) and is close to prolonging the functioning of a third reactor, the South Ukrainian Unit 1.

According to the UN Espoo monitoring body, the extension of licenses for these units has been done without an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and without informing neighbouring countries about the plans, as Espoo procedures would require. The decision of the UN Espoo body confirms that the extension of lifetime of nuclear power plants requires conducting an environmental impact assessment and consulting it with neighbouring states, a confirmation that will have an impact on other countries planning to prolong the lifetime of their nukes.

CEE Bankwatch Network, together with Greenpeace CEE and Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), is now calling on the EBRD, whose 300 million euros loan to the Ukrainian nuclear operator is enabling the Ukrainian lifetime expansions, to halt any disbursements of funds until Ukraine meets its obligations under the Espoo Convention.

Iryna Holovko, Bankwatch national campaigner for Ukraine, comments:

“The EBRD has been systematically turning a blind eye to the fact that their loan to the Ukrainian nuclear sector endorses Ukraine’s nuclear lifetime extension agenda. The bank went ahead with their loan to upgrade old Ukrainian reactors which are meanwhile being prepared for another 15 to 20 years of operation without a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment. This is an irresponsible approach on the part of a public bank, to put it mildly.

“Now an UN competent body is clearly saying that the lack of an EIA and of a consultation with neighbouring impacted countries puts Ukraine in breach of international legislation it has ratified. If the EBRD really wants nuclear safety in Ukraine as it claims, it must take this opportunity to halt the disbursement of its loan and condition the payments to obligatory compliance with Espoo requirements, that is, the preparation of an EIA for all units under preparation for extension and consultation with neighbouring states.”

Notes for the editors:

1. The UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) was adopted in 1991 with the aim of encouraging signatory countries to assess, at an early stage of planning, the potential environmental transboundary impacts of major projects and to inform neighbouring countries about the potential consequences of these projects. List of signatory countries and more information is available here:

2. In March this year, the EBRD approved a 300 million euros loan for the “nuclear safety upgrade” programme of Ukrainian national energy company Energoatom. Another 300 million euros is expected to come from Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community, which is still to make a final decision on this loan over the next months. While the “nuclear safety” programme is nominally supposed to improve the safety of nuclear operations at Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors, an expert analysis published last year clearly shows that some technical measures to be financed from these loans would not be necessary unless the lifetime of the reactors were not expanded. Hence, this money will be used to facilitate the implementation of Ukraine’s national energy strategy, which envisages these lifetime expansions, instead of being used for what is vitally needed to truly decrease nuclear risks - decommissioning programmes and figuring out how to safely deposit spent nuclear fuel.

For more information, contact:

Iryna Holovko
NECU Ukraine
Bankwatch Ukrainian national campaigner
iryna at bankwatch.org
+38044 353 78 42