Two shutdowns of new reactor in Ukraine

Publish date: August 19, 2004

The reactor at Khmelnitsky power station had to be shut down on August 8th, less than two hours after it went into operation, Interfax news agency reported on August 11th.

“These incidents do not represent any threat to the public or to the environment,” state nuclear energy company Energoatom said in a statement. Energoatom confirmed incidents had occurred at Khmelnitsky but said it “saw no cause for concern”. “Certain media inflated the affair,” it said. The K2 Russian-designed VVER pressurised water reactor at Khmelnitsky, which has a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, was brought on stream on August 8th at a ceremony attended by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. But it ground to a halt almost immediately.

An official at Ukraine’s governmental commission for atomic energy said that automatic security systems at the power plant had cut off the reactor from the electricity grid. The reactor was reconnected to the grid three hours later but had to be totally shut down later because of a failure in the cooling system caused by a power breakdown, the official added. The reactor was restarted on August 9th, only to be stopped again a day later, officially to test its shut-down system and cooling units, RIA-Novosti reported.

Energoatom said the incidents had been linked to tests conducted after the start up of the reactor. These tests were expected to continue until December. The nuclear power plants provide nearly 50 percent of Ukraine’s electrical power.