NGO’s camp demands to shut down Kola NPP: New NPP unlikely to be completed

The antinuclear camp placed in between Kola Nuclear Power Plant and Kola Nuclear Power Plant-2, which is under construction, was set up on June 19. The camp hosts some 100 enviroactivists from all over the former Soviet Union and North European countries. The main organizers are Socio-Ecological Union, Ecodefense and locally based group called GAIA. The activists assembled in the camp are protesting under three banners: Shut down the existing Kola Nuclear Power Plant; freeze the ongoing construction of Kola NPP-2; replace energy sources on the Kola Peninsula by alternatives to nuclear power.

Kola Nuclear Power Plant operates on four VVER-440 reactors commissioned in 1973, 1974, 1981 and 1984 respectively. The two oldest reactors, now 24 and 23 years old, originally were to be shut down in 2003 and 2004. The engineers of Kola NPP are working on gaining a new lease on a longer service life for these reactors, some 5-7 years beyond 2004. The construction site for Kola NPP-2 is located eight kilometers from the existing one. The plant will consist of three VVER-640 reactors, although funding shortfalls have not allowed to proceed with construction as scheduled.

The doubt that Kola NPP-2 would ever be commissioned was pronounced by Kola NPP employees visiting the activists’ camp. "It would never be completed due to the ongoing economic crises in the country", said one of them honestly at a meeting with the activists.

Kola Nuclear Power Plant, like the rest of Soviet-design nuclear installation in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, receives extensive technical assistance from the West to upgrade its safety systems. The patches put here and there on the plant’s reactor units allow engineers working there to state the plant is 100% safe, and would continue to so even if operated 5-7 years after the design life-time expires. In the meantime, a U.S. Department of Energy report entitled "The most dangerous Soviet-designed reactors" made available in 1995 ‘honors’ Kola Nuclear Power Plant with the very top rank on the list.

The current energy production on the Kola Peninsula is approx. 20 TWh/year, 12 TWh of which are produced by the Kola Nuclear Power Plant, while some 8 TWh are delivered by 17 hydro- and five fossil fueled power plants. The perspectives for development of gas fields in the Barents Sea make local authorities think it could be a good source of energy for the county in the next century. But the plans related to gas are flawed in the same way as the construction of the new nuclear power plant: No funding.

The camp proceeds without incidents. The representatives of Kola NPP are ready to talk, not to fight, unlike last year at the Rostov Nuclear Power Plant construction site. There, the activists’ camp was attacked by 500 outraged construction workers and employees of the plant. The camp was destroyed and burnt down, and 30 activists where beaten. The police stood by, watching the mayhem with indifference.