PUBLISHED: 8:22 PM 17 Oct 2017

Experts Give Dire Warning As 80% Chance Of “Serious Accident” Occurring In Nuclear Plant

Volodymyr Demchyshyn, the Ukraine Energy Minister, discusses possible nuclear failures at the four power plants.

Volodymyr Demchyshyn, the Ukraine Energy Minister, discusses possible nuclear failures at the four power plants.

Volodymyr Demchyshyn, the Ukraine Energy Minister, discusses possible nuclear failures at the four power plants.

Many of us would like to think that the devastation of Chernobyl was a freak accident and a one-time event. There is emerging data that points to this not being the case. According to experts with the Energy Research & Social Science (ERSS), there is an 80% chance that we will see a Chernobyl like event in the Ukraine before 2020. According to their recent findings, this is due to:

“…the increased burden on the nuclear plants caused by the widespread shutdowns of Ukraine’s thermal power plants (the raw material they consumed – coal from the Donbass – is in critically short supply) and also because of the severe physical deterioration of their Soviet-era nuclear equipment and the catastrophic underfunding of this industry.”

The fact that the nuclear power program in the Ukraine has not been adequately kept up is only the start of the more significant problem. An outdated series of reactors combined with a higher level of use is setting the region up for a major disaster.

There are currently four operating nuclear power plants in the Ukraine. Zaporizhia is the most significant plant with six reactors and an output of 6,000 MW. This is the largest plant of its kind if Europe. Rivne is the next largest plant with four reactors and an output of 2,880 MW. The Khmelnitskiy plant has two reactors and an output of 2,000 MW. A final station, South Ukraine, has three reactors and an output of 3,000 MW.

To put the size of these plants into perspective, it is helpful to compare their size to the now-closed Chernobyl. Before closing for good in 2000, the plant had four reactors.

The sheer number of reactors is not the primary issue; it is the fact that many of the reactors are incredibly outdated. There are a total of 15 reactors being used in the country. Of those, 12 were bought online during the Soviet era which is before 1990. Each of these dated models uses technology dating back to the 1960s. When they were designed, they had a maximum life expectancy of 30 years. Given this time frame, at least 10 of the reactors in the Ukraine are beyond their maximum usage date.

While the reactors start to crumble, the output from the thermal power plants has been cut in half in recent years. The lack of available fuel for thermal power has forced the overuse of the nuclear power plants.

As the reactors start to show their age, there have also been issues with getting parts to fix them. As the Soviet parts become outdated and not available, the Ukraine has experimented with trying to adapt American made parts. This seems to be a hit or miss solution to try to piece back together a nuclear program that is well beyond its intended use.

The overuse of a broken system and then the attempts to fix it with American products has created a sudden spike in failures at the nuclear power plants. Local news outlets reported a 400% increase in accidents at nuclear power plants across the Ukraine since 2010. Examples of these accidents include:

“In February 2016 there was an emergency shutdown of reactor no. 3 at the South Ukraine nuclear plant “due to an increase in the level of coolant in the steam generator.” As local residents reported on social media, the area surrounding the nuclear plant was immediately cordoned off by the military. And on March 23, 2016, operations at the South Ukraine nuclear plant were completely suspended for an entire day!
The Zaporizhia nuclear plant has already undergone a dozen emergency shutdowns of its reactors since 2014. For example, in November 2015, military troops in the Zaporizhia region beefed up their safety measures after the reactors at the nuclear plant suffered an emergency power loss – all of the soldiers and officers were issued special equipment to protect themselves from radiation and chemicals. But no official comment was forthcoming about the incident.”

The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant has seen no less than twelve severe accidents since 2014. Many of these included the need to take at least one reactor offline and place them in emergency mode. While twelve dangerous events in a short period is shocking, the ERSS cautions these may not include all of the problems at that single plant. This is maybe only a partial list of failures that have been followed by local media.

One such media event occurred on April 11, 2016. Reactor number 6 failed and was shut down due to fuel system failure. The local media reported the level of radiation around the plant increased ten fold due to this event.

The situation at the nuclear power plants all over the Ukraine seems to be getting worse. It is not clear how this situation can be fixed short of just stopping the use of the power plants altogether. This does not seem to be an option for local newspapers state:

Today Ukraine is desperately squeezing out the last drops of use from its decrepit Soviet-era nuclear facilities.