Energoatom rejects media reports about South Ukraine 2 licence

19 May 2015

Energoatom, Ukraine's nuclear power plant operator, has drawn attention to misreporting by some Ukrainian media that have claimed the country's regulator does not intend to renew the operating licence of unit 2 of the South Ukraine nuclear power plant.

The state-run company said yesterday that several news outlets - including "such an important source as" the newspaper Ekonomichna Pravda – had reprinted a press release from the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine (NECU) that stated the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation (SNRC) had not renewed the operating licence of unit 2 of the South Ukraine nuclear power plant. That statement was "supposedly based" on an official announcement made during a meeting of the SNRC board held on 30 April, Energoatom said.

"As per good journalistic practice, they should have checked their facts and not relied on a third party, in this case, the NECU," it said.

NECU is a non-governmental, not-for-profit environmental group.

Energoatom added: "They needed simply to look at the regulator's official statement to see that the extension or otherwise of the unit was not raised at all at the meeting, and NECU representatives are well aware of that. The SNRC board meeting was devoted to consideration of the status of [ongoing] work to extend the operating life of the unit. As noted on the regulator's website, the technical issues of Energoatom's implementation of measures to improve safety and extend the life of the unit, the legal aspects of this, as well as the involvement of the public in the decision-making procedure, were discussed during an open debate. Not a word was said on the matter of licensing."

An SNRC commission carried out an inspection of the South Ukraine plant between 14 and 17 April. This was conducted as part of the regulator's consideration of Energoatom's application, dated 4 October 2014, to amend its licence to carry out activities related to the "exploitation of nuclear installations" of the South Ukraine plant during the period of maintenance work essential to extending its operating life.

That inspection confirmed Energoatom's ability to conduct this work in accordance with its application to amend the licence, dated 19 July 2002, "on the feasibility of the stated activities for unit 2 in a cold state - with the full unloading of fuel from the reactor core to used fuel storage pools - during the period of necessary measures to prolong the life of the unit," the company said. The unit is undergoing "major scheduled maintenance work that is tentatively scheduled for completion in December this year."

The misreporting "calls to mind", Energoatom said, the false and politically motivated reports in December last year that claimed the level of radiation in the area surrounding the Zaporozhe nuclear power plant had exceeded normal levels by more than 14 times, and that "experiments" with Westinghouse fuel had led to the closure of unit 3 of the plant.

Unit 6 of the Zaporozhe plant had in fact tripped and was disconnected from the grid early on 28 December due to a problem affecting the function of its turbine and the reactor was brought down to 40% operational capacity. The fault was identified and fixed, and the unit was re-connected to the grid the same day.

Westinghouse issued a statement later that month, rejecting reports by several news agencies that implied a link between the supposed incident and the company's fuel.

"There is currently no Westinghouse fuel operating in any of the six 1000 MWe Russian type VVER reactors at the Zaporozhe nuclear power plant, which to our knowledge is fueled only with fuel supplied by the Russian Company TVEL," Westinghouse spokesman Hans Korteweg told World Nuclear News on 30 December. "Westinghouse fuel is however operating safely and efficiently at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant without any defects in performance. The same day, Westinghouse and Energoatom announced that they had agreed "to significantly increase" nuclear fuel deliveries to Ukrainian nuclear power plants until 2020. Westinghouse said this increased cooperation will bring diversification and security of nuclear fuel supplies for Ukraine's reactor fleet.

US-based Westinghouse, which is majority-owned by Japan's Toshiba, has been working in the Ukrainian market since 2003. Its fuel is operating at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant "without any defects in performance", Westinghouse said. Both Energoatom and the SNRC have issued statements upholding Westinghouse's comments.

Energoatom said yesterday: "Do we really need to remind everyone that no fuel assembly made by Westinghouse has been loaded into the Zaporozhe plant, and that the background radiation at the plant is today, just as it was last year, within the normal range?"

It added: "It's a pity that a respected organization like NECU should engage in red herring propaganda and that some in the media today have no intention to check the facts."

The company called on journalists who use third-party information about the operation of nuclear power plants, to check its accuracy with the reports and statements issued by the SNRC, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Association of Nuclear Operators, whose experts regularly monitor the safety of nuclear power plants in accordance with international standards.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News