There are four nuclear power plants in Ukraine today. The vast majority of them are a legacy from the time of the USSR: Zaporizhzhya, Rivne, Khmelnitsky and South Ukrainian nuclear power plants include 15 power units.
How safe is it to operate and what is the risk from the Chernobyl NPP in the form in which it exists today? Many begin to give comments on these issues, but opinions sometimes differ.
This material contains facts and arguments that were voiced in connection with this by Olga Kosharnaya, media director of the Ukrainian Nuclear Forum association.
Chernobyl: “Vaccination” from frivolity
The likelihood that a tragedy like the Chernobyl disaster could happen in Ukraine for the second time is likely to be zero. Operating nuclear power plants have remained in Ukraine since the days of the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, not one of them has a single RBMK in its arsenal, which were previously operated at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. All of them were taken out of work, since it is the flaws in the design of this type of reactor installation that are considered to be the main cause of the Chernobyl tragedy. Today they are replaced by water-moderated reactor (WWER).
An alarm signal about malfunctions in the RBMK design was recorded back in 1975 at the Leningrad NPP, then the melted fuel channel led to the radiation release, but no conclusions were drawn.
In fairness, we note that Academician Aleksandrov, who led the project for the creation of RBMK, was extremely proud of his brainchild. The installation was implemented promptly, turning a blind eye to testing and due diligence — production was the priority, not safety, as it provided performance and a premium.
The authority that would exercise control over the use of nuclear energy and monitor radiation safety did not exist in the USSR. The prevailing belief was that man is omnipotent, and to make calculations that subordinate nature to the human mind is a couple of trifles.
It was necessary to have such a large-scale tragedy as Chernobyl so that this axiom collapsed and somersault occurred in the minds of those involved in the development of nuclear energy. In April 1986, nuclear scientists received a kind of “vaccine” from scientific frivolity.
Will it become preventive? Time will tell. In the meantime, the fact that the nuclear power plants operating in Ukraine are under the maximum control of domestic and international experts is obvious.
How has consciousness changed?
The IAEA has drawn its conclusions and learned the Chernobyl lessons. Conventions have been adopted obliging each state included in its composition to monitor nuclear and radiation safety. Moreover, the authority exercising this control should be independent of the operating organization.
International missions were also launched into the work, totally inspecting each country. In addition, the World Association of NPP Operators had been registered. Its representatives monitor their colleagues, record the stages of nuclear power plant modernization, monitor incidents, and exchange constructive experience.
In a word, there is a modern legal framework for nuclear and radiation safety today in Ukraine, which allows not only to monitor the work on the use of peaceful atom, but also to keep up to date, systematically conducting the necessary scientific and practical research.
The Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate, established in Ukraine, defines safety standards at nuclear facilities, licenses activities in the field of nuclear energy use and monitors how these standards are implemented.
The Chernobyl tragedy changed consciousness and mentality, making safety culture a priority. Today, each employee feels enormous responsibility not for performance indicators, but primarily for the safety of the operation of nuclear facilities.
There is a whole list of emergency training exercises at nuclear power plants:
- standardized instructions;
- improved regulations;
- great importance is given to the human factor: the operators and employees of nuclear plants undergo not only medical, but also psychological tests.
One fact is that a specialist is not allowed to work at the block control panel if he has not worked at the station for at least 15 years and has not passed the necessary training practice.
According to statistics, today in Ukraine, 35 thousand people work at the existing five nuclear plants, and only 400 of them are licensed operators, they make up the gold fund of nuclear energy.
The experience of Fukushima
The accident at the Fukushima NP in Japan made the world tremble again. The nuclear and radiation safety standards were revised with even greater care. There are no such earthquakes in Ukraine, but lessons from this tragedy must be learned.
Experts in theory should consider all sorts of options, up to the destruction of all the Dnieper dams and the flooding of the Zaporizhzhya NPP. Analysis of damage in theory will help to create the necessary practical basis for systemic actions in the event of any natural disasters.
As they say, forewarned is forearmed. This does not mean that you need to wait for force majeure or natural disasters every day. There is no need to click trouble, but to be ready to deal with it is homework for all of us. Today it is a matter of morality, conscience and scientific progress.
The Fokushima tragedy is a signal not only for those who work in the nuclear industry. This is also an indicator of people’s attitude to tragedy, their mentality. What is the difference between apartments in Pripyat, looted by marauders shortly after the Chernobyl accident, and the frozen counters of Fokushima stores.
They froze, full of consumer goods. Abandoned drivers and gas stations are standing motionless, as if their owners had gone out for a lunch break, the served tables of restaurants and cafes had emptied. Since the tragedy, not a single living creature has approached them.
It seems that all this surreal picture would heal in an instant with the wave of a magic wand – everything would rustle, the city would return to its rhythm, but decades will pass before this becomes possible.
Japan, which once survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki, landed on his feet after another disaster. This is an indicator of knowledge, fortitude, education and morality. There is something to learn.
Chernobyl NPP, are there new problems?
Many people are asking this question today. Experts say that it`s in vain. The radiation background of the protected area of the Chernobyl exclusion does not pose a significant threat and is steadily decreasing every year.
The fourth power unit is planned to be disassembled and disposed of. This is the most serious stage that our specialists have to carry out. For the safety of this type of dismantling, a new confinement was developed and installed together with international experts.
The term of its operation is not less than 100 years, it was 1.5 billion euros for sale. This is the largest, ever created by man, mobile ground structures. The issue of fuel-containing oils, which are still inside the destroyed reactor, remains relevant.
While there is no safe concept for dealing with them, its development and strategic implementation is our common future. Today we can say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, or rather what has left of it, is an object of the historical, scientific and moral heritage of all mankind, and it will exist for a very long time.
It’s just that the grass on its territory will not turn green soon, but there is hope that, thanks to the popularization and development of the tourism exclusion zone in the 30-km zone, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant will cease to be for future generations an object associated only with fear and death.