The Co-Chairman of the international group “Ecozashchita!” (Ecoprotection) Vladimir Slivyak during his exclusive interview states that so far there are not threats for Ukrainian nuclear power plants, but in case of active military actions in East Ukraine the situation may change. Exclusive interview...
1.Which is the current status of the NPP construction projects in Baltic region?
The construction of the nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad region was suspended last year. In Lithuania, as we know, there have been no moves other than talks. Even in Finland the construction of the French reactor has been stopped because of controversies between the construction company and local customer. The second NPP, which Finland was going to request from Rosatom, yet is still on paper, there is no construction activity. It is hard to assume how this project shall be affected by the international tension related to the actions of Russia towards Ukraine. I guess that some activity is observed only in Belarus.
2. What is the future of the Baltic NPP after suspension of its construction?
Its fate is still unclear – since the construction was stopped in the middle of 2013, Rosatom has reported several times that it is not going to refuse of the project. However no moves in practice have been made, but talking. The key moment for this project still remains to the lack of power consumer. Nevertheless they are promoting the idea, although in quite odd manner. Thus, for example, Rosatom’s representatives state that they have order environmental evaluation of the project in the IAEA. But this organization does not perform environmental evaluations and is engaged absolutely different activities. Also they stated that one of French banks is holding environmental expertise of the Baltic NPP. In reality we are talking not about environmental evaluation of the Baltic NPP project, but about supply of turbines. The bank Societe Generale at the moment considers the supply request for French turbines for the nuclear plants of Rosatom and in accordance with its own procedure it performs the corresponding evaluation. The difference is the same as between a bomb and its shell. The safety of the shell may be recognized, but it doesn’t mean that the bomb itself is safe. This is already not the first time when the Rosatom’s representatives manipulate with half-truth. Let’s remind that last year it was stated that Rosatom holds public discussion of the Baltic NPP project in neighbor states in accordance with the Espoo Convention. In reality instead of clearly described procedure of Espoo with hearings, terms, control of the Secretariat of the Convention, there have been only several meetings with the officials of different states. Afterwards Rosatom reported that someone somewhere had approved the project, although these were the meetings for the officials to exchange information. In Russia it is impossible to trust either the reports with the reference to Rosatom or state Mass Media. The information should be multiply verified otherwise the risk of fraud is high. Shameless propaganda is the only thing of Russian expertise.
3. Shall NATO be more active in Ukraine to maintain NPP’s security in this country?
Anyway at the moment there are no direct threats to Ukrainian NPPs and the NATO is not active. To my mind everything shall depend on further decision of Russian administration. If intervention proceeds in East Ukraine there shall be a threat to NPP and everything may change. In this case most likely the nuclear power plants shall be simply stopped, at least in the east. There is quite an important aspect – you can’t just stop an NPP and leave, to assure security one needs to guarantee stable power supply for the stopped reactors. And this can be difficult in terms of real military actions, not telling about a direct war threat. In such circumstances there is a threat of another Chernobyl disaster.
4. What heritage in the sphere of energy has been left after incorporation of Crimea into Russia? Approximately the same scope of gas is produced in the Black Sea shelf as consumed in Crimea. Also there is abandoned long time ago unfinished Crimean NPP, but its state would hardly allow resuming construction works. For many years a music festival has been held at the ruins of the nuclear power plant. And if the matter arises, Rosatom will have it easier to construct a nuclear plant from the ground, although there have been no serious prerequisites or statements on this.
5. What risks at the moment exist in Ukraine in the sphere of nuclear energy?
First of all, unsafe exhausted reactors of Soviet design. Secondly, it is constant threat of termination of nuclear fuel supplies from Russia. There is some reserve of the fuel in Ukrainian NPPs and here it is important how long the crisis will last, whether this reserve shall be enough. Today already no one doubts that the authorities of Russia are able to terminate fuel supplies for political purposes.
That is why Ukraine has begun negotiating with American company Westinghouse in order to find an alternative to Russian fuel. It is the first big loss for Rosatom in nuclear business resulted from the events in Ukraine.
6. Which is the short-term forecast of the EU energy policy development in relation to the Russian Federation?
Sanctions were imposed, however not the hardest one, so one may expect serious alienation in the relations between the European Union and Russia. After Crimea annexation they are more often saying that Russia is ready to use all the levers to influence west, including also through energy carriers supplies. European politicians are trying to implement all available tools to reduce dependence from Russian gas supplies. Regarding nuclear power supplies and the projects of Russian NPPs construction inside the EU there is nothing definite yet. In Czech Republic they stated that Rosatom should not be allowed to the NPPs construction tender. Great Britain doubted that Rosatom would be able to get approval for an NPP construction. All these facts result from the events in Ukraine. Together with that yet we have not heard any notifications from Hungary or Finland about suspension of current contracts. Most likely there they still hope to wait until the political storm calms down to use the funds of Putin for NPPs projects accomplishment. Politicians in these countries are trying to pretend that it’s just a matter of business, but they are hypocrites or extremely wrong. Russian authorities have entered into the era of confrontation with west, including the EU, and have too much at stake not to use nuclear energy for the purposes of policy.