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In the following we present our translation of an article from RIA Novosti with a commentary by Vince Dhimos.
This is an excellent analysis of the heart breaking situation in Ukraine, where economic solutions to the problems real people face, such as keeping warm in the winter and having power to light their homes and cook their meals, are being sacrificed on the altar of senseless pro-Western anti-Russian politics. The following is just one of many examples.
“It is quite simple to give them [the nuclear power plants] another fifteen years of active life – all they need to do is negotiate with Russia. In other words, the question is purely procedural. However, in 2015, Petro Poroshenko banned by decree any cooperation with our country, which is why the solution to a number of vital issues was immediately suspended.” [something like refusing to talk to the other great nuclear power--Vince]
The issue of power is particularly critical for Ukraine because they are already starved for energy. A few years back, the Ukrainian government shot itself in the foot by failing to pay for their natural gas consumption. The gas was easy to steal at one time because the pipeline running from Russia to Europe passed through Ukraine, and the resourceful Ukrainians just helped themselves to as much as they wanted. Eventually, Russia did what any sensible supplier would do and shut off the spigot. This is the main reason for the Nord Stream II that is now being laid, bypassing Ukraine and other Russia-hostile countries, despite all the Western hysteria to stop it, including sanctions on every investor in the project. Never mind that stopping the project would force Europe to buy the extravagantly expensive LNG, which Trump is eager to foist on them as part of his MAGA strategy. If Europe were forced in this direction, Germany would cease to be the second biggest exporter in the world and would fall on hard times. We have pointed out before that, in the West, notably the US, economics is now reduced to politics in this brave new era. If you will recall, the US was once the biggest advocate of the so-called “free market,” where each participant competed on the bases of price, availability, ease of delivery, quality and the like economic factors. Today, though Trump complains of unfair trading policies by China, US car manufacturers are blatantly subsidized and oil and gas execs who foolishly invested in fracking ventures and lost their shirts were later bailed out by a 2017 tax law that gives these incompetents tax credits, read subsidies. The fracking process is inherently extravagant and can be profitable only in an environment of horrendously high prices at the pump – or if the government props up the investors at tax payers’ expense. BTW, the WTO considers these subsidies unfair trading practices when the product in question is exported. But who would dare enforce the law on the Exceptional US? China is the only target of these rules.
Meanwhile, the brilliant folks who run the Ukraine are paying extra to have Russian gas. Since they are too proud to buy their gas directly from Russia (politics trumps economics), they are buying Russian gas from middle men in Europe who simply reroute it to the Ukraine. Cash on the barrel head, no cheating this time.
It is not wonder that, as President Poroshenko has admitted (and as we reported here), US-backed Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe.
Once these nuclear reactors are off line, thanks to Poroshenko’s shooting himself and his country in the foot, it will be lights out for the Ukrainians who elected him.
It didn’t have to be this way.
(As usual, you won’t find this information in your msm or even the alternative press).
Ukrainian roulette for Russia: five nuclear reactors are at stake
Sergey Savchuk, for RIA Novosti
The following is not another attempt to show how bad things are in Ukraine, and particularly, it is not another rant. It is simply an analysis of the situation and an attempt to predict the possible development of events outside the context of the political situation. I will confess at once that Ukrainian specialists asked me to consider this topic, as local news resources on this issue are keeping deathly silence.
Russia saved Ukraine from a new Chernobyl. But for how long?
... At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine turned out to be one of the most "atomic" states on the planet (it still ranks no. eight in the world in terms of the power generation). Ukrainians received up to forty-six percent of all electricity from their nuclear power plants inherited from the USSR. There are five of them: Zaporizhzhya, Rivne, Khmelnitsky, South Ukraine and Chernobyl. Let us separately dwell on the latter. The conviction prevails in the mass consciousness that after the 1986 technological disaster the station was stopped and the entire area around it was evacuated. This is not true. As a result of the well-known events, only the fourth power unit failed, and the other three were working well and further, generating electricity. The last (third) power unit was decommissioned back in 2000.
And now to the topic of conversation. It is known from open sources that by 2020 Ukraine will reach the end of the life of its four power units:
• Rivne NPP, the third block, term - December 2017
• Khmelnitsky NPP, first unit, term - December 2018
• South-Ukrainian NPP, the third block, term - February 2020
• Zaporizhia NPP, fifth unit, term - May 2020
VVER-1000 water-cooled reactors are installed in all of these units. It is easy to calculate that in less than two years, the leadership of Ukraine will face the question of saving or losing four gigawatts of generation all at once. To make it a little clearer: this amounts to 35 terawatts per hour, while the whole of Hungary, for example, produces 38 terawatts a year.
Naturally, Ukraine received Soviet infrastructure as a legacy from the broken family of fraternal peoples. During the years of independence in the energy sector, our neighbours did not build anything new; even the construction of the third power unit of the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant (NPP), to which the Czech company Skoda was supposed to deliver the reactor in keeping with the political exigency, was not completed. Over the years of independence [NSS—the author is referring here to Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union], only two energy projects have been successfully implemented: this is the commissioning in 1995 of the sixth power unit at the Zaporozhia NPP and the fourth unit of the Rovno nuclear power plant. Of course, these projects were successful only thanks to cooperation with Russia. All other initiatives were confined to the statements of politicians and to the pages of the press.
As you know, any equipment requires constant maintenance, repair and sensitive operation. What can we say about such a complex and high-tech facility as a nuclear power plant? The issue of extending the life of Ukrainian reactors over the past few years has already been raised more than once. For example, in 2010 and 2011, the life of the first and second power units of the Rovno NPP, respectively, expired. They are reliable "old" VVER-440s. Energy infrastructure in the literal sense of the word, depends on the kind of political system in the country and the stage it is in. All reactors that heat and light Ukraine have been developed and created in the USSR, and only one country, Russia, can extend their life. More specifically, representatives of Russian production and regulation: Rosatom and Rostekhnadzor - the latter is the company that performs licensing of such facilities. No one else in the world will ever take responsibility, no matter how much they ask, or even beg.
No, of course, in theory, a conventional Mitsubishi corporation can start research and development work, but the time frame for such events usually exceeds ten years, and licensing is needed today.
Rings, Welding and Radiation
Let us explain why expiration of operation is so important. To put it quite simply, every reactor is a huge pressure cooker welded together out of steel rings. During operation, various chemical and thermal processes take place inside the reactor, which naturally cause wear and tear on the metal. Over time, excess carbon begins to accumulate in the welds of the shell. To test the potential operability of the reactor, water is drained from it and the fuel assemblies are removed. After this, the so-called "annealing" of the internal volume of the reactor is carried out, entailing raising the temperature to 475 degrees (sometimes higher). This process itself takes at least one hundred hours. After this, the shell is allowed to cool down and the most rigorous analysis of the condition is carried out, including microflaw and flaw detection, and the state of the welds is carefully checked. In the case of the Rovno VVER-440, this technology has long been worked out to the last detail by Russian nuclear scientists and allows us to extend the life of the reactor by twenty years. At the time of expiration, there were no critical disagreements between our countries, and both units received licenses for another two decades of hard work.
As for the more modern VVER-1000s, their annealing is also tested. Recently, a research group represented by Rosenergoatom, OKBM Gidropress and NRC Kurchatov Institute reported on the first successful annealing of the WWER-1000 reactor vessel in history. The results will extend their life for fifteen years. It is difficult to overestimate this event; suffice it to say that this is the most ubiquitous of all the reactors in operation. At the very moment as you read these lines, thirty-seven VVER-1000s are operating simultaneously around the world, including the four Ukrainian ones mentioned above.
What’s the problem?
Let's start with the purely technical part. To better understand the essence of the issue, the four units mentioned above shall be divided into two equal groups. In the first group we will include the third unit of Rovno and the first unit of the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant (NPP). These are reactors, in which no changes have been made, operating on the initially defined fuel, which is produced and supplied from Russia by TVEL. It is quite simple to give them another fifteen years of active life – they need only negotiate with Russia. In other words, the question is purely procedural. However, in 2015, Petro Poroshenko banned by decree any cooperation with our country, which is why the solution of a number of vital issues was immediately suspended.
The second group is much more interesting. The third power unit of the South Ukrainian and the fifth power unit of the Zaporozhia NPP uses nuclear fuel supplied by the American company Westinghouse [this change was made by Poroshenko to please the US and spite the Russians--Vince]. And here is where the aforementioned problem begins. Rosatom and Rostekhnadzor simply cannot physically extend the life of the resource because the reactor is powered by freelance fuel. All its physical and other characteristics are classified and are the intellectual property of a foreign country. Moreover: Ukraine, of course, does not provide any data on the results of the use of American fuel. Even if we assume that Russia will still be invited as a licensor, the study of this data alone will take considerable time. For its part, Westinghouse cannot extend the life of these two reactors: the reactors and the entire plant are not their production. Dead end.
The work of all five NPPs in Ukraine is managed by the National Atomic Energy Generating Company Energoatom. But the supervisory functions are assigned to the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (HIARU). Here we must point out that, although the word “state” is present in the title, the leadership of the power is subject to a very arbitrary attitude. The only body to which the inspectorate submits fully and unconditionally is the IAEA. This is understandable: presidents come and go and the composition of the parliaments and the vectors of political trends change, but no one wants to wind up with a second Chernobyl.
And so: on November 22, a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Nuclear Property Management was held, at which the issue "On the status of the work to extend the life of power unit No. 1 of the Khmelnitsky NPP" was considered. The KNPP leaders spoke at the board, and an official resolution was adopted on the basis of the hearings, the first paragraph of which reads: "we consider it possible to contemplate the issue of restarting the operation of the Khmelnitsky NPP power unit No. 1 at power levels, subject to extension of the service life of the reactor building, transport equipment and the like.” There are, of course, many points here, but we are interested in the first and main one. If translated from clerical to Russian, this means that until the reactor receives permission and a license, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine prohibits its operation. We have discussed above the entity that can issue this very license. In fact, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine shifted responsibility from a sick head to a healthy one, that is, to Energoatom. If we evaluate only the facts, then we see that Ukraine actually has given up on the first power unit of the Khmelnitsky NPP.
We will not venture to predict how the Ukrainian authorities, who have just declared another deadly battle against Russia, will behave in this situation. On the one hand, they can save four gigawatts of generation by simply agreeing with Moscow. On the other hand, we see that Ukraine prefers to think without its head.