The Former Head of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Forecasted Catastrophic Post-Maidan Consequences for Ukraine’s Atomic Industry

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The former head of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant Mikhail Umanets stated on the air of the “ZIK” TV channel that the operation of the existing power units of Ukrainian nuclear power plants can’t be prolonged without the consent of the Russian Federation, otherwise the guarantees of their operation will be removed and Ukraine can expect international sanctions.

“Today nothing good will happen to us unless the life of nuclear power units are extended – in five years we will become bankrupt. So we extend. We extended the life of two units at the Rovno station, normally for 20 years, they are being used. We extended the life of four VVER1000 units, they are more powerful units. We try to extend their life by 15 years, but for now we extend their life for only 9 years. But even this isn’t that bad; what’s bad is that during this extension of life, one technological operation that both the chief designer and the research supervisor – i.e., – Russia insist on wasn’t performed.

And Russia not only insists on it – today in Russia bench tests on annealing the reactor vessel are coming to an end. This year at the Balakovo station this annealing is planned and it will extend the station’s life by 15 years. As soon as it happens, the chief designer and research supervisor will demand from us by right to remake everything and to do everything properly. And this entails the stoppage of four units. In today’s state of affairs, stopping 4 out of the 16 units in total is awful. This is catastrophic.

Even if we opt to not do this task, they will sound this demand at the international level. And this isn’t at all connected to today’s relations with Russia, this is the right of the chief designer and research supervisor. And they won’t just demand, they will remove guarantees of the operation of our power units in front of the world community,” stated Umanets.

The nuclear scientist notes that Russia may also refuse to export Ukrainian nuclear waste, which will become a real sanction against Ukraine.

“The sword of Damocles today hangs above us. Sanctions began, thank God, they didn’t affect the main issue – two connections with Russia: the supply of nuclear fuel and the exportation of spent nuclear fuel. If especially the second connection is severed, it will be a catastrophe. Nobody will take away our spent nuclear fuel. But they won’t declare this as a sanction – today Russia has the absolute grounds to perform these operations.

Because under contracts that were signed on spent nuclear fuel, the radiation waste created as a result of its processing must be taken back by Ukraine. This is highly radioactive nuclear waste. Ukraine must do this. But we aren’t ready for this at all,” said the nuclear scientist.

He also added that problems with nuclear power can lead to the death of the industry by 2040, and this will result in a rise in the price of electricity and a number of industries in the country coming to a standstill.

“Our metallurgy is energy-intensive, chemistry also, and so on, and so on. There will be a skirmish. Who from them will die? Business will fight for this, it will fight for every kilowatt of this energy. But some things will be capitally closed and won’t work. And this will have a mass character. So I described what will happen only before 2025, but it will continue after this. At today’s rate of work, by 2040 we will lose in general the entire nuclear industry,” warns the former head of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

According to him, the construction of new power units in the country could rescue the situation, but Ukraine doesn’t have neither the money, nor the technologies for this.

“Even if lifespans are extended up to 2025, four VVER1000’s have to be stopped — this is nearly 30% of energy generation. In order to be clear about what this smells of, I will name only some figures: the cost of construction of one unit is from $5 to 7 billion. The timeframe of construction of one unit is 10 years. These are those countries – Russia and the US – where there is a tried and tested scheme, where there is everything [needed to service the units – ed]. But in Ukraine five powerful construction-assembly specialised complexes were disbanded. There were beautiful complexes at every station in Ukraine. Now this is no longer the case. It’s evident that there is no money. But after all, today we haven’t even chosen the type of reactor that we are going to work with or who we will cooperate with,” summarised Umanets.

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