Leaked report says Chernobyl replacement reactors a hazard

A leaked Austrian government study describes the two reactors, built to replace Chernobyl and supply the Ukraine with power, are “particularly hazardous”.

Greenpeace, who released the Vienna University report prepared for Austria’s Government on 30 November, called on directors of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to delay their decision on whether to finance the two reactors. The study said that the reactors, which are now 80% completed, would not reach Western safety standards. Most importantly, it found that the seismic risk at the Khmelnitsky (K2) and Rovno (R4) sites had been underestimated by a factor of four.

The study also found that key safety upgrades on the two reactors will not be completed by the start-up date and may take years to finish “because of the poor financial state of the Ukrainian economy and the operating company ENERGOATOM”. The report also said that the priority repayment requirements of the EBRD loan would further aggravate the lack of funds for repair, maintenance and upgrades of Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Finally, it said that the K2R4 project has an even lower safety standard than the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic over which Austria is threatening to veto Czech ascension to the European Union (see related story).

Greenpeace says safety concerns at the reactors strengthen its argument that the $1.5 billion plan, of which $215 million in loans is to be decided on by EBRD on 7 December, should be shelved. They argue that Chernobyl, scene of the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster in 1986, should be replaced with conventional power capacity. “These reactors are dangerous, they are not needed, and the EBRD must now delay its decision on whether to finance them in the light of this safety study,” said Tobias Muenchmeyer of Greenpeace International.

“Supervision of nuclear safety is now a hundred times worse that it

was in Soviet times,” said Ukrainian journalist Lyubov Kovalevskaya, who lived near Chernobyl. “The bankers have forgotten that nuclear fuel was stolen

from Chernobyl in the 1990s and they have forgotten the risk of


Greenpeace says that the EBRD directors were also considering inaccurate figures

according to a study, commissioned by the environmental group, which found that the latest least-cost analysis by the EBRD of energy projects to replace the

Chernobyl reactor gives a misleadingly inflated cost for the non-nuclear


The organisation says that the EBRD’s key criterion for lending on the K2R4 project is that it is the least cost investment in the Ukrainian energy sector. The study found that the EBRD, when calculating the cost of the K2R4 project, correctly included the massive fall in the value of the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, between 1998-1999, thus reducing its total cost. However, the bank did not include the currency devaluation when calculating the cost of the non-nuclear energy projects such as a combined-cycle gas-fired power plant, Greenpeace says.

The EBRD has been reviewing the economic, environmental and financial

viability of the project since 1995 when it was put forward by the G7 and EU. The last remaining reactor at Chernobyl has now been closed two weeks ahead of schedule because of a power failure. Greenpeace says that since the Ukrainian economy has collapsed, energy consumption has almost halved, reducing the need for many power stations already built.

The EBRD has said that safety is its main concern in approving the K2R4 programme, but that if the project were refused, Ukraine might go ahead with the project anyway, with possibly lower safety standards.

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