Ukraine is preparing a nuclear bomb for Europe
Despite the economic and financial crisis, Ukrainian authorities try to rehabilitate their country's nuclear industry which is currently in a poor condition. It is a very painful issue for Kiev as Ukraine depends to a large extent on nuclear energy. Ukraine's fifteen nuclear reactors generate almost half of the nation's electric power . And yet, only 12 out of 15 existing power-generating units of Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) were put into operation as long ago as the Soviet period. Construction of the remaining three units (namely, the Khmelnitsky-2; Rivne-4 and Zaporizhia-6 nuclear power plant units) also was started in Soviet times. All power units run on ancient technology and require long-term repairs together with extensive upgrading for extending the duration of their work. For instance, the service life of the power unit 1 of the Khmelnitsky NPP expires at the end of this year. And after it, the unit should be closed for a one-year repair period to increase its service life for a further 15-year period.
Nevertheless, as was stated by Oleksandr Dombrovskyi, Chairman of Verkhovna Rada's Committee for Fuel & Energy Complex, during the July gathering in the European Parliament, 'Ukrainian energy sector has the greatest energy potential in Central Europe, namely, 55.4 thousand megawatts of installed capacity' . He also called for cooperation in establishing an energy hub in Central Europe.
In such situation, new reactors with modern equipment, which are operated with more accessible American fuel, are of vital importance for Ukraine. The cost for the construction of such type of objects will long continue to be prohibitive to debt-ridden Ukraine. However, leadership of the State Enterprise 'National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom' (SE NNEGC Energoatom) managed to find funds to complete the construction of two new power units, namely, the Khmelnitsky-3 and Khmelnitsky-4. The project of the so-called 'energy bridge', which was also discussed during the July gathering in the European Parliament, became the basis for this decision. The high-voltage transmission network between the power unit 2 of the Khmelnitsky NPP and the city of Pzeszow, Poland should be the project's first phase. Yuri Nedashkovsky, President of the SE NNEGC Energoatom, considers that electricity export (about 7 billion kilowatt-hours per year) will be a good opportunity to seek finance for completing the construction of two power units of the Khmelnitsky NPP. Preliminary estimates indicate that Ukraine will receive about $300 million a year, and this should provide the required financial means for completing the construction of the Khmelnitsky-3 and Khmelnitsky-4 power units. It will be used as collateral to obtain credit without sovereign guarantees.
It is worth mentioning that the project was planned as early as 2015, at the same moment when Verkhovna Rada denounced the agreement with the Russian Federation concerning further construction of the Khmelnitsky NPP. But Poland is still in doubt about its Ukrainian partners.
This is illustrated by Nedashkovsky's letter to Krzysztof Tchorzewski, Minister of Energy of Poland, with yet another assurances about robustness of their arrangements.
At first sight, President of the SE NNEGC Energoatom is maximum sweet and persuasive. Although, even the first lines of the letter may provoke Poles to immediately terminate all arrangements. Initially, the deal had to do with only the production of the Khmelnitsky-2 nuclear power unit. And already at that time, there was a question about how Ukraine would deal with the challenges to provide electric power to its Western territories when the Khmelnitsky NPP is their main source of energy. Especially, in the case when one of the power units is operating for periods exceeding those prescribed by the project regulations because Kiev has ruled that the successful carrying out of the preparatory work is sufficient for extending the duration of this unit's work, even without full-grade one-year repairs.
According to the IAEA report for 2016, the Khmelnitsky-1 power unit was put into operation in 1987 . This was done at the same time as the beginning of construction of the Khmelnitsky-3 and Khmelnitsky-4 power units. Current leadership of the SE NNEGC Energoatom raises funds for completing their construction with great hopes that these units will have a great impact on the future of Ukrainian energy generating industry. It seems that Kiev plans to exploit the poor Khmelnitsky NPP (that is supplying only 9% of the total electic power generated by Ukrainian power plants) and to suck the life out of it to the utmost only for erecting other power units whose reliability and functionality are equally questionable.
Ukraine is known to be giving Europe a whole fresh set of thrills with regard to more and more emergency situations at its nuclear power plants. Every year, there are traditionally a few safety accidents together with unscheduled work stoppage 'for rehabilitation in order to repair the damage'. Currently, the SE NNEGC Energoatom has canceled its scheduled maintenance operations, which were planned to conduct together with the IAEA at practically a dying reactor for refocusing its work completely on export issues.
And this situation threatens to cause a catastrophe probably larger in scale than what we saw in Chernobyl. At what expense will they provide electric power to own citizens in this part of their country? And how will energy prices in these regions change in conditions of increased domestic energy deficit? These are the domestic policy issues with which Europe will have to deal only in the case of group actions brought by the very inhabitants of western provinces of Ukraine to international bodies. But such decisions of Ukrainian authorities, and particularly gentlemen from Verkhovna Rada's Committee for Fuel & Energy Complex, pose a threat to neighboring countries, including Poland and other EU members.
Chernobyl has become just another ordinary horror story. However, this disaster differs from various horror stories by being a real and non-exclusive tragedy. Three Mile Island, Bohunice, Fukushima... There is every chance that puts the Khmelnitsky NPP together with these geographic names because of Ukraine's greed and willingness again to ride into Heaven at the expense of Europe.