Ukraine wants to build 11 new nuclear reactors by 2030 in a strategic move aimed at boosting its energy independence, the state-run Energoatom company, which operates all nuclear plants in the former Soviet republic, said today. The statement was issued after a meeting yesterday between Energoatom management and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The prime minister’s office could not be reached for comment.
In 1986, Ukraine was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, when a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded and caught fire, spewing radiation over much of northern Europe.
Ukraine has registered 4,400 deaths. In all, seven million people in the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are believed to have suffered health problems as a result of the accident.
Chernobyl’s remaining reactors were finally shut down in 2000 and the country is still asking Western donors for some Ј530 million to replace a hastily built shelter that secured the destroyed reactor’s core.
The country needs new nuclear facilities “because the exploitation term of Ukraine’s oldest reactors expires in 2011”, the nuclear operator said.
The first two reactors should be built at the Khmelnitsky nuclear plant in western Ukraine, Energoatom said. Ukraine also intends to modernise its existing reactors, develop a centralised repository for nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel, and boost domestic uranium production, the statement said.
Ukraine currently operates 15 nuclear reactors, but it is still dependent on Russia, its huge neighbour, for much of its energy supplies. All existing Ukrainian reactors were built by Russian contractors.
The European Union pledged last year to finance safety upgrades at the two newest reactors through a multi-million pound programme also assisted by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.