Leaked Report Says Chernobyl Replacements a Hazard

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Leaked Report Says Chernobyl Replacements a Hazard By Mike Collett-White Nov 30 10:49am ET

LONDON (Reuters) - A leaked report in London on Thursday warned that two nuclear plants designed to succeed reactors at Chernobyl in Ukraine and which need major Western funding are in a ``hazardous'' condition.

The Greenpeace environmental group released the Vienna University report, prepared for the Austrian government, ahead of a decision by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development next week on whether or not to back the project.

Greenpeace says safety concerns at the reactors strengthen its argument that the $1.5 billion plan should be shelved.

They argue that Chernobyl, scene of the world's worst civil nuclear disaster in 1986, should be replaced with conventional power capacity and not more high-risk nuclear plants.

``These reactors are dangerous, they are not needed, and the EBRD must now delay its decision on whether to finance them in light of this safety study,'' Tobias Munchmeyer, nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace, told a news briefing.

EBRD directors will formally vote on the $215 million loan, which would be the London-based bank's largest single project, on December 6 or 7. An approval would give a strong signal to the other partners to go ahead, banking sources said.

The report says that the Soviet-designed nuclear power reactors at Khmelnytsky and Rivne (K2/R4), which are already 80 percent complete, are ``highly hazardous.''

It says that seismic risks at the sites have been underestimated and that Ukraine lacks the funds to meet the EBRD's modernisation program. It also supports Greenpeace's argument that other forms of power should be sought.

``Other...investments in operating installations will help the Ukrainian economy much more effectively -- without new nuclear power plants,'' the report said. ``It would be highly appropriate if they were supported by the EBRD.''


An EBRD spokesman said safety was its main concern in approving the K2R4 program, and that practical concerns were also a major factor.

``If it was not done this way then there is a very good chance the Ukrainians would get it done anyway but to a lower standard,'' he said.

The Bank's president Jean Lemierre supports funding the new reactors on condition that Ukraine's energy company Energoatom introduces a nuclear safety program.

But that and other conditions placed on Kiev could further aggravate the risks of the K2R4 projects, Greenpeace said.

``There is a priority for the repayment if (EBRD) loans,'' Munchmeyer said. ``The nuclear monopoly is almost broke and already there is a lack of money for repair and maintenance. This will be even worse when Ukraine has to repay the loans.''

Ukraine has said it will close down Chernobyl on December 15, but only in return for aid to complete the two reactors.

Munchmeyer said Ukraine knows of the dangers of continuing to run the troubled plant and would not renege on a promise made during President Clinton's visit to Kiev in June.

On April 26, 1986, Chernobyl's Soviet-designed reactor number four exploded, spewing tons of radioactive dust and contaminating vast areas of Belarus, Russia and much of Europe.

Officials say one in 16 Ukrainians continue to suffer grave health disorders linked to the disaster, including cancer and diseases affecting their blood, breathing and nervous systems.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), November 30, 2000

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