Talking about the Central Hygiene Nuclear Safety Center

Talking about the Central Hygiene Nuclear Safety Center

Valery Mikhailov

Comprehensive cold tests will begin this week at the first start-up complex of the Ukrainian Centralized Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility (CSSF). So far without the most spent nuclear fuel (SNF). According to the plans, they should last until February 4, 2022.
We are talking about the very Central Hygiene Nuc-lear Safety Center, which the Ukrainian authorities have already put into operation with pomp twice : at the end of 2020, and then in August 2021, when the a-rrival of the first train with spent nuclear fuel was an-nounced exactly on the an-niversary of Ukraine ‘s ind-ependence, on August 24. However, this train has not yet arrived, and both sole-mn openings turned out to be sham, as we had warned.
Moreover, recently an audio recording of a meeting in the office of an official of the Energoatom National Nuclear Energy Generating Company was published in open sources, the participants of which are discussing how to hide the facts of the disappearance of part of the money allocated for the construction of the CSFSF, and how to complete the twice put into operation object.
Recall that Energoatom is the operator of 15 power units at four Ukrainian nuclear power plants. At the same time, only Zaporozhye NPP has its own dry storage facility intended for long-term conservation of SNF. SNF from the remaining nine power units was exported to Russia for temporary storage and/or reprocessing.
But after 2014, when Kiev de facto came under the control of Washington, Energoatom began to transfer an increasing number of power units to the fuel produced in Sweden by the American company Westinghouse. This fuel for VVER-1000 is already in operation at six out of 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine. Moreover, five units (three at Zaporozhye and two at the South Ukrainian NPP ) are fully loaded by him. This year it will also be loaded into the reactor of the third unit of the Rovno nuclear power plant. And in 2023, Westinghouse will supply fuel for VVER-440 to the second unit of the same nuclear power plant.
Of course, the increasing use of American fuel leads to the appearance of more and more SNF from it, including at nuclear power plants that do not have dry storage facilities. At the same time, the Americans never take their spent nuclear fuel anywhere, even for temporary storage. Russia also did not accept Westinghouse SNF and does not accept either for temporary storage or for reprocessing.
Since Ukraine cannot refuse from more expensive American fuel due to its state failure, the problem of spent nuclear fuel from it objectively required some kind of solution. However, the construction of the CSFSF – for which the American contractor Holtes was chosen – began under the slogans “away from Moscow” and “we will save money on storing spent nuclear fuel, which we pay to Muscovites.”
The savings turned out to be dubious. 150-160 million dollars have already been spent on the construction of the first start-up complex of the CSFSF, and even it has not yet been completed. The cost of building the entire storage facility was initially estimated at $1.5 billion, but there is no doubt that it will cost two to three times more. To this should be added the cost of its operation.
Russia previously paid $130-150 million for storage and/or processing services. And although new batches of SNF have not been exported to Russia for more than a year, storage and/or processing of previously exported fuel still has to be paid for. Experts believe that the CSFSF can pay off within 60 years, which is an extremely distant future for Ukraine.
But, in fact, there was no goal to save money. There were two main goals: to please the American “partners” and to steal from the construction site.
It has not yet been possible to completely appease the Americans – although the main construction contract was given to them, while the TSFSF, which was twice put into operation, cannot be used. Energoatom expects that the construction and all the necessary tests will be completed in April and the first batch of spent nuclear fuel from the South Ukrainian NPP will call at the CSFSF before the May holidays. Although this is far from a fact, because earlier Energoatom predicted the delivery of spent nuclear fuel in late spring, and then in August 2021.
Not a fact, including because with the second goal, theft, everything turns out much better. Here are the words of one of the participants in the meeting at Energoatom, dedicated to the situation with the completion of the CSFSF: “You understand that the money is gone, sold, stolen (obscene language in the original. — Approx. ed.) and so on. We must find other sources of funding, and they need to be legalized somehow. How? We don’t quite understand yet.”
Already after the statements about the “almost one hundred percent readiness of the facility” publicly made at Energoatom in December 2020, a new private contractor was involved in the construction, to which more than one billion hryvnia (about $40 million) was transferred during the year. Moreover, they even stole on such “unnecessary” things for a nuclear storage as a radiation monitoring system: “You were paid an additional 22 million for the radiation monitoring system. Do I understand correctly? violations. We paid you money that was not earmarked. Before the first check.”
Here it would be appropriate to recall the claims of Holtes regarding a large number of violations and shortcomings both at the CSFSF itself and in the entire system of working with spent nuclear fuel in Ukraine. That is, what will be the quality of the object, when the first start-up complex of the CSFNF is nevertheless completed, and how well the entire complex of work with spent nuclear fuel will function, one can only guess.
All this should be alarming, not only for Ukrainians, but also for neighboring states. The CSFSF is located just 13 kilometers from Belarus and about 150 kilometers from Russia. If the unfinished CSFSF is put into operation in April, the main risks will fall on these countries.
If its commissioning is again postponed, then it’s time to think not only in Moscow and Minsk, but also in Warsaw. Nuclear power plants with temporary “wet” SNF storage facilities packed to capacity (spent fuel has not been removed from them since January 2021) are located in three regions: Mykolaiv, Khmelnytsky and Rivne. The last two are not so far from Poland.

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