“The incident at the Zaporizhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine, where a power transformer dysfunction occurred on November 28th, is considered to be routine by the Ukrainian nuclear industry. The same unit’s operation was stopped by the automatic safety system in June 2014, following a pump dysfunction.
“Zaporizhye is one of the 15 currently operating Ukrainian nuclear reactors, 12 of which were supposed to be closed over this decade because they reached the end of their design lifetime. Successive Ukrainian governments, however, prefer to keep the units in operation. There is no clear action plan for decommissioning nor ideas for the capacity replacement as nuclear produces almost half of country’s electricity.
“The current conflict with Russia has exposed problems of the Ukrainian nuclear sector. Ukraine is heavily reliant on Russia for nuclear fuel (which is very difficult to replace by another producer), spare parts and technical documentation. This opens space for a conflict similar to the ‘natural gas wars’ the two countries have been engaged in for years now.
“The recent accident has also demonstrated another problem that reliance on nuclear causes to the energy sector – the concentration of the generating capacities. The incident that stopped one 1000 MW unit has created an unbalance in the energy sector that led to rolling blackouts, leaving the country hungry for gas and coal to compensate for the lost generation capacity.
“While many experts insist on the need to restructure the energy sector by cutting consumption and kick-starting the development of renewable as the best ways to achieve energy independence, the European Union — through European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Euroatom loans — financially supports the programme to extend the lifetime of the Soviet-built reactors. In this way, Europe will get no more than a higher risk of major nuclear accidents and further dependence of the Ukrainian energy sector on Russia.”
NECU (National Ecological Center of Ukraine)
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