Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Ukraine is being turned into a cemetery of radioactive waste, subjecting to huge danger not only the residents of Ukraine, but also of the adjacent states. This was reported by the official representative of the Armed Forces of the DPR Eduard Basurin on Friday at a briefing in Donetsk.
According to him, in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant the American firm “Holtec” finishes the construction of a special storage where they will bring spent nuclear fuel. It is planned to put the facility into operation in 2019.
Basurin reminded that the infrastructure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is already in a critical condition, meanwhile the authorities of Ukraine don’t solve problems, but instead generate new ones.
He compared the situation with a time bomb, which in his words “will be inherited by our descendants, while the children of the Kiev criminals will live in the countries of the West on the money that is drenched in Ukrainian blood”.
Apparently this concerns nuclear waste dry storage facilities that started being built in the Chernobyl zone in 2014 using American money. According to the idea of the Kiev authorities, it has to ensure Ukraine’s energy independence from Russia, since it is precisely Russia that was always engaged in disposing nuclear fuel from Ukrainian nuclear power plants.
But the Americans didn’t just sponsor construction for nothing – they did it for their “Westinghouse” company, which they expect to make the main competitor of Russian “TVEL” for the supply of nuclear fuel for the Ukrainian nuclear power plants.
Besides this, Washington plans (and it doesn’t hide this) to incline Ukraine to receive and store spent waste also from American nuclear power plants, because they have accumulated a lot of waste, while they still don’t have suitable dry storage.
It isn’t excluded that this question will be just part of the mission of the US Department of Energy Rick Perry, who in the forthcoming week is going to visit Kiev. In any case, it is known that during his trip he is going to meet officials who deal with the exportation of coal and liquefied natural gas, nuclear energy, and cybersecurity.
The problem is that the nuclear burial ground is being built not at all far from Kiev (some 70 km away) and the Dnepr, which supplies half of Ukraine with water. That’s why the safety issue of this object causes absolutely justified concern. Especially taking into account today’s chaos and anarchy in the country of the victorious Maidan, and also the fact that for Holtec this is the first experience of building such a construction.
“It is indeed like this,” commented Aleksey Anpilogov, the director of the “Osnovaniye” fund who worked for many years in Ukrainian nuclear energy. “The Holtec firm knows the specifics of the transportation and expeditious storage of radioactive waste rather well. It is one of the leading companies for the production of transport containers for short-term expeditious storage. But they, in reality, are now working out the specifics of storing the spent nuclear fuel or various radioactive waste – including highly active waste – in Ukraine.
I.e., the situation is in many respects similar to the position of the Westinghouse company, which in the past and in the same way entered into the market of nuclear fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. And it is here that the specifics of storing nuclear waste, which Holtec now realises, originated from.
As a reminder, Westinghouse offered conditions similar to those of ‘TVEL’. But at the same time Ukraine is exposed to the risks associated with assessing the compatibility of American fuel and, so to say, Soviet (now Russian) reactors. And Ukraine bears all financial losses as a result too.
Now it is possible to say that Westinghouse fuel more or less works in combination with the Russian reactors, and the main niggles were sorted out. But before this there were many incidents. Fuel from the South Ukraine Plant unloaded. Reactors shut down. And it is Ukraine that paid the price for all of this.
However, there was one very unpleasant problem that Westinghouse from the very beginning said that it won’t solve.”
“SP”: What is this problem?
“The storage of the spent nuclear fuel that this company delivers to Ukraine. Unlike ‘TVEL’, which is also a supplier of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, Westinghouse flatly refused to take back fuel for re-processing, according to objective reasons, because it simply doesn’t have such processing.
It is necessary to say that there are more than 100 American nuclear power plants (many of them started working in 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s) that still store fuel. I.e., all that quantity that passed through plants in these past few decades is now accumulated there, in plant storages. In so-called ‘pools’. The same pools, by and large, exist in Ukrainian plants too.
And the issue is that simply nobody has the experience of more long-term storage of fuel elements in a water environment. Despite the fact that containers are made from zirconium and stainless steel, nobody stored them for more than 100 years. There are fuel elements that are 30- or 40-years-old, but not 100-years-old.”
“SP”: Why is it so important?
“The fact is that even 100, 200, and even 300 years later the fuel will maintain rather high activity — it can’t be simply taken out of this pool and laid out, as is said, under the sun. And that’s why the decision that the American lobby forces forward in Ukraine is, in fact, such preservation – for several hundreds, or maybe even thousands of years – of this process with the definitive burial of spent nuclear fuel.
This process, in principle, was taken care of by the French and our Rosatom, but it wasn’t taken care of in the US because of historical reasons. And as a result, Westinghouse in this sense can’t do anything — it doesn’t have such technologies for the definitive burial of spent nuclear fuel. Or for its re-processing — i.e., repeated use that we, once again, and the French possess.
That’s why, of course, Ukraine now has no choice. It is simply forced into this Westinghouse fuel being forever stored on its territory. In these circumstances, future generations – when they will dig it up in 100 or 200 years – will still face the same questions — how to re-process all of this, how to extract something and to start in a new cycle. And something of an amount that is impossible to be re-processed will be vitrified – an inert brick is being made, which is then buried in steady geological structures underground.
But this doesn’t exist and won’t exist in this storage, and won’t be in this storage. In fact, what is being built there now is a big radioactive coffin with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which will constantly be situated here.”
“SP”: And what are the risks?
“On the one hand, allegedly there shouldn’t be catastrophic floods there, as well as earthquakes too – the plate is stable there. One coffin more, one coffin less — people aren’t nearby anyways. That’s why nobody cares about this there.
But there are political factors, there is a human factor. I.e., Ukraine is a very unstable, so to say, state formation. And when such a time bomb lies near Europe – and here there is a territory that has entered into cruel political crisis already for the second time in a decade – this, of course, gives certain risks.
Especially if Ukraine will be forced to store the fuel of more successful economic countries under the guise of earning money. This will correspondingly increase the risks connected to the fact that the storage is situated on the surface.
Thats why I think that this danger will always hang over this storage. But, as I understand, this doesn’t really worry the US — they are located on the other side of the planet.”
“SP”: But such surroundings should worry Europe?
“You know, Europeans will rather again give some money to pay off this problem instead of participating in solving it. This was seen in the situation with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, when Kuchma and his government were given money in order to close the Chernobyl plant. Now in the same way European money has been allocated for the arch project — a new sarcophagus.
And if something happens to this dry storage of nuclear fuel, Europe, I think, will also try to resolve this issue money, and not via some organisational actions.”
“SP”: Will it be possible to solve this problem with money if this “bomb” explodes?
“Time will tell. You understand, nobody wants to estimate the risks until a catastrophe has happened, considering them to be minimal.”
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