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Chornobyl Initiatives Reports and Publications Photo Library Nuclear Reactor Profiles and Accomplishments About our Program Web site sections
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Ukraine Flag Ukraine

On this page:
- Country Profile and Reactor List
- Operating Nuclear Power Plants
- Fuel Supply and Waste Disposal
- Key Nuclear Organizations
Additional Ukraine sections on this website:
- Data table of reactors
- Map of Ukraine's reactors
- Photos of Ukraine
- Photos of Chornobyl
- US-Ukraine Conference on Nuclear Trade and Cooperation

Country Profile and Reactor List

Size: 233,090 square miles (slightly smaller than Texas)
Population: 50.9 million (July 1996 est.)
Gross Domestic Product: $161.1 billion (1996 est.)
Gross Domestic Product per Capita: $3,170 (1996 est.)

Electricity Production: 181 billion kWh (1996)
Electricity Consumption per Capita: 3,500 kWh (1996 est.)
Total Installed Generating Capacity (1996): 55,100 MW
   Thermal-Fired Plants: 37,600 MW (67%)
   Nuclear Plants: 12,800 MW (24%)
   Hydroelectric Plants: 4,700 MW (9%)
Nuclear Power Plants:
   
Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant
   Khmelnytskyy Nuclear Power Plant
   Rivne Nuclear Power Plant
   South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant
   Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant

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Operating Nuclear Power Plants

Ukraine has 14 nuclear power reactors in operation at five sites. In addition, two units are under construction at Khmelnytskyy and Rivne. In 1997, Ukrainian nuclear power plants produced 47 percent of the country's electricity.

Ukraine has 13 operating pressurized light-water reactors (11 VVER-1000s and two VVER-440/213s). The remaining operational reactor, Chornobyl Unit 3, is an RBMK reactor. The Chornobyl Unit 4 accident in 1986 focused international attention on the safety of Soviet-designed reactors, particularly the RBMK design (more on Chornobyl accident). The G-7 nations and the European Union are working with Ukraine under a Memorandum of Understanding to close the Chornobyl plant by 2000. At Chornobyl, DOE is involved in projects to upgrade equipment and safety procedures at operating Unit 3, and in rehabilitating and making the working conditions safer in the Shelter, which contains the destroyed Unit 4. DOE also provides support for the development of the International Chornobyl Center for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology.

Other international assistance has included IAEA training seminars; an NRC working group; the Lisbon Initiative involving U.S., Russian, and Ukrainian scientists, and Hungarian assistance in upgrading safety procedures. Joint ventures with France, Germany, Russia, and U.S. companies and governments have also been signed, primarily for upgrading equipment and safety procedures.

In late 1993, Ukraine signed an agreement with the U.S. government to cover nuclear safety assistance activities and provision of liability protection. As stated in the agreement, Ukraine will shield U.S. companies providing safety assistance from liability for future accidents. Also, on September 20, 1996, Ukraine deposited its instrument of accession to become a signatory of the Vienna Convention, which came into force for Ukraine on December 20, 1996.

Safety Concerns and Plans for VVER-1000 Reactors

The reliability of Ukrainian plants is influenced by the differences between the VVER-1000 and VVER-440/213 reactors. "Despite the fact that units with VVER-1000 reactors are more modern and, in terms of formal design characteristics, better satisfy generally accepted safety principles and criteria," notes the Ukrainian Ministry of Environmental Safety, "the quality of the design and its practical implementation have turned out to be inadequate and inferior to the older VVER-440/213" (in Status Report: Nuclear and Radiation Safety in Ukraine, 1994, Ukraine Ministry of Environmental Safety). The problems with the VVER-1000s are endemic to all these reactor models throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union:

  • problems operating localization safety systems and poor maintenance of the containment prestressing system
  • erosion and corrosion of piping
  • continued operation of components, systems and equipment beyond their design life
  • defects in diesel generator control circuits, leading to failures
  • failures of electric switches, so that safety system mechanisms fail to actuate
  • failures in data channels in transient modes of unit operation
  • radiation-stimulated increases in the critical brittleness temperature of the reactor vessel metal, which may result in thermal shock damage to the vessel when cold water from the emergency core cooling system enters it.

The Ukrainian Nuclear Regulatory Administration is planning to modernize and retrofit units with VVER-1000 reactors to avoid these potential problems. These measures include:

  • reconstructing the automated process control system to improve its reliability and expand its functional capabilities
  • developing accident management equipment and systems
  • developing a group of diagnostic systems for reactor processes, particularly those affecting safety
  • modernizing the fire protection system and engineered safeguard power system
  • completing work to improve operating safety: replacing steam generators, installing hydrogen igniter systems inside the containments, replacing primary-side thermal insulation.

Safety is not the only issue facing the Ukrainian nuclear program. The lack of money is probably the primary issue, followed closely by dwindling numbers of qualified personnel. Electricity payments in Ukraine do not cover the costs of production, so the plants are owed millions of dollars by electricity consumers, especially state-owned enterprises.

Because of the payment crisis, Ukraine's nuclear workers are leaving to take jobs elsewhere. Many of the specialists are Russians, and some have left to work in Russia, where they are paid up to 10 times more than in Ukraine. As well as affecting personnel, the funding problems affect Ukraine's nuclear fuel, nuclear liability, and waste management programs. The lack of money has delayed the delivery of spare parts, equipment, instruments, and materials. Preventive maintenance may also be a victim of the lack of funds and specialized personnel, resulting in more unscheduled unit shutdowns. The Ukrainian Nuclear Regulatory Administration estimates that disrupted operations, unscheduled outages, and repeated delays resulted in a shortfall of 15 billion kWh, or 22% of total electricity generation capacity in Ukraine in 1994. This would be equivalent to shutting down two 1000-MW power units for a year.

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Fuel Supply and Waste Disposal

Ukraine intends to establish its own nuclear fuel industry, drawing on its considerable uranium resources. In February 1996, Ukraine's State Committee for Nuclear Power Utilization, provisionally awarded a contract for construction of a nuclear fuel assembly plant to the Russian company TVEL, a joint stock firm within the Russian Ministry of Atomic Power.

Producing its own nuclear fuel would spare Ukraine the expensive dependency on foreign sources that has plagued its nuclear industry since the country's independence. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, the source of Ukraine's fuel, has raised the price of nuclear fuel 30 times. Furthermore, fuel deliveries have been disrupted, the quality of Russian fuel has been occasionally dubious, and Ukraine has been chronically short of hard currency to pay for the Russian fuel. Mikhail Umanetz, First Deputy to the Minister of Energy, estimates that the costs of fuel production facilities would be repaid in four to five years. Plans call for importing only enrichment services.

In the past, spent fuel from Ukrainian nuclear power plants was sent to Russia for reprocessing. However, in 1992, the Krasnoyarsk local government refused to allow the Krasnoyarsk nuclear fuel cycle complex to accept Ukrainian spent fuel from VVER-1000 reactors, as originally agreed. This refusal poses a major problem for Ukrainian plants (such as the Zaporizhzhya plant), which are running out of room for onsite spent fuel storage. Contracting with a U.S. firm, Zaporizhzhya is expanding its capacity for onsite spent-fuel storage. A Canadian firm is transferring technology to allow Ukraine to manufacture dry storage containers for spent fuel (more about dry storage). Other radwaste facilities have been issued permits at Kharkiv, Odesa, and Lviv. The Kiev and Donetsk radwaste facilities have been shut down. The Dnipre facility is being rebuilt.

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Ukraine's Key Nuclear Organizations

  • Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety - agency responsible for implementing Ukrainian policy on environmental protection and for protecting the population from activities that are potentially damaging to the environment. Also is the parent organization of the Ukrainian Nuclear Regulatory Administration.

  • Nuclear Regulatory Administration - Ukrainian nuclear regulatory authority.

  • Energoatom - utility under the Ministry of Energy responsible for all of Ukraine's nuclear power plants.

  • Ukraine Academy of Sciences - parent organization of many scientific and technical institutes with nuclear-related functions.

  • International Chornobyl Center for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology Kyiv, Ukraine - research center and technical support organization for nuclear safety and decommissioning activities for Chornobyl nuclear power plant and Chornobyl Shelter, as well as for other nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

  • Slavutych Laboratory for International Research and Technology - primary technical branch of the Chornobyl Center.

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