Centralized storage of spent nuclear waste at Chernobyl: problems of implementation


Experts from a leading environmental NGO, the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine [NECU] are convinced that the present plans for construction of a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear waste on the territory of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant will not resolve Ukraine’s problems with storing spent nuclear waste.

The construction of such a centralized storage facility at Chernobyl runs counter to a number of decrees and decisions from executive and legislative bodies. These include Presidential Decrees, a decision of the National Security and Defence Council; as well as Cabinet of Ministers Resolutions. The Ministry for Environmental Protection in its State Environmental Impact Opinion No. 535 gave a negative assessment for plans to build a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear waste in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Yet despite this, on 18 November 2009 a draft law was registered in the Verkhovna Rada aimed at passing as a base a draft law “On locating, planning and constructing a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear waste from VVER type reactors of Ukrainian nuclear power plants” (reg. no. 5050/P). This envisages the construction of a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear waste in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The initiator - the National Nuclear Energy Company “Energoatom” – is insisting on placing the centralized storage facility specifically in the Chernobyl Zone because there is virtually no local population around the station. However in the event of force majeure circumstances, residents of the Chernihiv and Kyiv regions, as well as Belarus, could suffer. The Dnipro River, which is a water source for 70% of Ukraine’s population, could also be in jeopardy.

According to Artur Denysenko, Energy Coordinator for NECU, the plans not only fail to resolve the problems they are supposed to deal with, but create new difficulties. They will effectively destroy any chance of the Chernobyl zone ever become an area people can use. As well as being in violation of Ukrainian legislation and environmental structures, it is also economically unviable, and creates a new and potentially dangerous area on the border with Belarus.

Civic organizations are therefore suggesting that storage facilities for spent nuclear waste be built near the station as was the case at the Zaporizhya Nuclear Power Plant. This will make it possible to save on the infrastructure of the facility and remove the danger of transporting dangerous substances. This is even more the case since Energoatom itself considered this possibility and according to its calculations the plan would not be more expensive than the creation of a centralized storage facility. And the most important thing is that spent nuclear waste in storage facilities near stations will be under the permanent scrutiny of professionals.

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