Ukrainian reactors: EBRD indecisive, Russia cautious

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) agreed to finance the construction of a reactor unit at the Khmelnytsky nuclear power plant, Nur Nihmatullin, president of the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear operator Energoatom, told ITAR-TASS on 5 February. He said $200 million would be needed for a project nearly 90 per cent complete.

The statement was refuted the same day by the EBRD’s spokesman in Kiev, Anton Usov, who said no final arrangements had been made.

Ukraine signed a memorandum in 1995 with the G-7 industrial nations in which it promised to shut down Chernobyl by 2000 in exchange for aid to construct two new nuclear reactors. Work on the two new reactors, at Rovno and Khmelnitsky, would cost an estimated $1.2 billion.

Khmelnitsky NPP already has one VVER-1000 reactor in operation. Three new VVER-1000’s are said to be under construction. Rovno NPP has had two VVER-440’s operating since the early 1980’s and one VVER-1000 reactor unit began operations in 1986. A fourth VVER-1000 is under construction.

Russia suspends assistance proposal
In February 1998, Russia proposed a financial and technical assistance plan to help Ukraine complete the two reactor units with $180 million. The proposal never amounted to more than a preliminary agreement between the two countries.

"It is unlikely that the financial crisis in Russia will allow them to find money for us," Genady Sazonov, head of Energoatom, told Reuters.

The Russian nuclear minister, Yevgeny Adamov, said Russia could help Ukraine but that country’s large debt urged caution . Ukraine paid only 20 per cent of the sum for fresh nuclear fuel shipped from Russia in 1998. This year, Ukraine is counting on receiving fresh fuel worth $65 million from Russia without having to pay.

Bartering keeps Khmelnitsky idea afloat
Ukraine is funding part of the work at the Khmelnitsky reactor itself, but the plant’s director, Mykola Dudchenko, told Reuters that work was paid for primarily by barter deals and hampered by the lack of real cash.

Dudchenko said he hoped the plant would be completed in the first half of next year. If the plant is not operational in two years, "there won’t be any sense working on it any more as the equipment is growing outdated", Dudchenko added.

Igor Kudrik

igor@bellona.no