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Nuclear Safety in Ukraine and Russia

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November 1996


On this page:
- 1.0 Introduction
- 2.0 Summary of the Problems
- 3.0 What is Needed?
- 4.0 International Response
- 5.0 What is the United States Doing?
- 6.0 Issues
- 7.0 Recommendations
- 8.0 Conclusions
- 9.0 References

1.0 Introduction

This report describes the safety of nuclear power-producing reactors in Ukraine and Russia, and the programs of cooperation intended to reduce the risk of continued operation. This report responds to the direction contained in the Conference Report accompanying S.1124, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996.

This report summarizes the problems facing nuclear power in these two countries, including technical problems with the Soviet reactor designs, nuclear energy dependence, the evolving regulatory organizations, and various socioeconomic issues that impact the prospects of improving safety at Soviet-designed nuclear power plants. The report also describes the kinds of improvements that are required and the response of the international community to address these needs.

Congress recommended that DOE report in coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA is an independent body with a critical role in the oversight of civilian nuclear power activities in support of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). As such, the IAEA must preserve its objectivity and independence from national politics and especially from activities associated with nuclear weapons production. Therefore, while a draft report was prepared as an assessment of reactor safety in Russia and Ukraine, a copy was provided to the IAEA for review and DOE representatives met with the Agency to discuss their comments which have been incorporated into this final report. The IAEA review was limited to these aspects related to IAEA DOE's technical findings and recommendations.

In addition, all U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear safety activities in Russia and Ukraine are carried out in coordination with the IAEA. DOE representatives participate on the appropriate IAEA Steering Committees and assist in the preparation of safety evaluations concerning reactors in Russia and Ukraine.

Improving nuclear reactor safety in Ukraine and in Russia involves circumstances that are unique to each of the two countries. In Ukraine, strategies for addressing the issues posed by nuclear reactor safety must interweave with considerations of severe economic austerity, the consequences of the Chornobyl accident, and the role of alternate energy sources. In Russia, improving the safety of nuclear reactors includes consideration of the reactors built to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. This report addresses these circumstances separately for the two countries.

2.0 Summary of the Problems

2.1 General

2.1.1 Soviet-Designed Power Reactors

The Soviets used two types of power reactor designs: the RBMK (Reactor Bolshoi Moschnosti Kanalyniyi ) and the VVER (Vodo-Vodyanoy Energeticheskyi Reactor ).1 The RBMK is a boiling-water, graphite-moderated, pressure-tube reactor. The nuclear fuel is contained in about 1,700 individual tubes that are vertically mounted in a large graphite core. Cooling water passes through these pressure tubes and is boiled by the nuclear heat to produce steam. The steam is then routed to the turbine generator, which produces electricity.

The RBMK design does not meet internationally accepted safety requirements. Deficiencies exist in the emergency core cooling system, the fire protection system, and the instrumentation and control systems. Primary among the deficiencies is the fact that the RBMK design does not include a containment system to minimize release of radioactive materials in an accident. The Chornobyl reactor destroyed in 1986 was an RBMK-type reactor.

The VVER reactor is a pressurized, light-water-cooled and -moderated reactor. The VVER reactors use low-enriched uranium oxide fuel in thin metal-clad rods to generate heat. The fuel rods are cooled by pressurized light water. Steam to run the turbine generators is produced when pressurized, heated water from the reactor is pumped through steam generators.

There are three generations of the VVER reactor design. The first, the VVER-440/230, lacks important safety features, including fire protection systems, emergency core cooling sys-tems, and a strong containment system. The VVER-440/213 is a somewhat enhanced version of the 230 with an emergency core cooling system and a bubble condenser tower that provides a measure of containment. The VVER-1000 is the largest and newest of this type of reactor, similar to reactors used in the United States and elsewhere. It produces about 1,000 megawatts of electricity and meets most international safety requirements, including emergency core cooling and containment systems.

2.1.2 Safety Issues

The IAEA conducts assessments of the safety of nuclear reactors, including characterization of the severity of the risk arising from specific safety issues. In its assessments of the Soviet-designed reactors, IAEA has identified the following safety issues of concern, described as issues of design or operation. Safety issues in the design of these reactors are associated with the core, component integrity, systems, instrumentation and control, electrical power supply, containment, pressure boundary integrity, internal hazards, external hazards, fire protection, and accident analysis. Safety issues categorized by the IAEA in the operation of these reactors are associated with operating procedures, management, plant operation, radiation protection, training, and emergency planning. 2

2.1.3 Safety Culture

In the past, generation of electricity at Soviet-designed nuclear power plants was achieved at the expense of operational safety considerations. Nuclear power plants that were operated in the Soviet tradition lacked adequate operational and maintenance procedures, quality assurance programs, and the underlying design and safety basis documents. Improving safety of day-to-day operations in Soviet-designed plants requires cooperation in key areas: conduct of operations; operator exchanges; improved training, including greater use of simulators; emergency operating instructions; emergency management and planning; and, maintenance technology and training.

2.1.4 Nuclear Energy Dependence

Nuclear-generated electricity was a driving force behind the economic and industrial development of the former Soviet Union (FSU). As a result, the New Independent States (NIS) have a strong commitment to the use of nuclear power. This history and commitment are manifest in the nuclear power bureaucracy and in the social and economic structure of the communities surrounding power plants built in the former Soviet days. In the Soviet tradition, the personnel needed to operate the nuclear facilities were located in cities built at the plant sites. Plant operations provided the basis for supporting the entire population of the surrounding region. Continued operation of existing plants provides support for those populations. Recommendations to shut down reactors have implications in human terms far beyond simply making up the loss in electrical generating capacity.

2.1.5 Other Socioeconomic Drivers

Additional issues derive from establishment of nuclear power in the Soviet era. First, the nuclear industry in the Soviet Union developed in technical isolation from the international nuclear community; within country, plants were isolated from each other as well. This technical isolation, exacerbated by geography and language, inhibited the transfer of technological advances, lessons learned from unanticipated incidents, and sharing of the technical basis for international standards of safety. Second, nuclear power was developed in the socialist context that placed a premium on production quotas. In an economy dominated by a production mentality, there is little incentive to establish the technical, administrative, or regulatory infrastructure to provide for the safe operation of nuclear plants. Similarly, the socialist legacy with emphasis on production traditionally devalues the cost of resources necessary to produce electricity, as well as the contribution of other indirect costs associated with production and distribution.

These other socio-economic drivers have resulted in additional complications in the continued operations of nuclear power plants in the states of the FSU. The assistance provided by the United States and others addresses problems that operators in Ukraine or Russia would not address on their own. Without active cooperation by other nuclear power states, Russia and Ukraine would have had little basis from which to develop different operational practices to improve the safety of their nuclear plants.

Also, having launched into a nascent market economy from the legacy of socialism has left plant operators in these nations without the cash flow necessary for ongoing operations. Nuclear plant operators cannot pay the plant staff on a regular basis or buy the spare parts needed to maintain the plants. Although electricity rates have been raised in Ukraine, for example, the nuclear power plants cannot charge enough for their electricity to cover their costs.3 Further-more, nuclear electricity in Ukraine is priced below electricity from thermal power plants. Electricity consumers in Ukraine, particularly state enterprises, owe the nuclear power plants millions of dollars for electricity provided; but when payments are collected, they are disbursed preferentially to the operators of fossil-fuel power plants. These critical funding shortages have a marked effect on nuclear plant safety. Lack of funding has resulted in the loss of a trained operator staff, inability to purchase spare parts or fresh fuel as needed, and the halting of needed safety work.4 For example, plant operators have delayed a scheduled maintenance outage for Chornobyl Unit 3 due to lack of funds for replacement parts and contractor labor. In another example, critical shortages in fuel for Chornobyl Units 1 and 3 over the past two years have forced plant operators to scavenge -- and reuse -- fuel from Unit 2.

2.2 Ukraine

2.2.1 Nuclear Power Reactors

There are 15 nuclear power reactors operating at 5 sites in Ukraine, providing, on average, 37% of the electricity generated in the country in 1995.5 In January, 1996, these 15 nuclear power plants provided 50% of the nation's electricity. The oldest nuclear reactor operating in Ukraine, Chornobyl Unit 1, came on line in 1978; the newest, Zaporizhzhya Unit 6, in 1995. The reactors remaining operational at Chornobyl, Units 1 and 3, are both RBMK design reactors. These reactors provided 7% of Ukraine power needs during the winter of 1995/1996. The reactors at the other sites in Ukraine are all VVER-type reactors.

An accident at Chornobyl Unit 4 in April 1986 destroyed the reactor core and part of the building in which it was housed. Unit 2 was damaged by fire in 1991 and has been shut down since then. Unit 4 was commissioned only three years prior to the accident.

2.2.2 Other Energy Issues

Ukraine is one of the most energy-intensive countries in the world (Figure 1) using about three times the amount of energy per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the United States.6 This high energy intensity indicates significant energy waste that can be reduced through various energy-efficiency measures. Ukrainian specialists estimate that over one-third of the electricity used in the Ukrainian economy can be saved cost-effectively by the year 2010.

Ukraine imports roughly one-half of its energy supply, with 90% of the imports coming from Russia.7 These imported fuels are very expensive and have put great strain on Ukraine's balance of payments.

Ratio of Electricity Consumption to Gross Domestic Products

2.2.3 Regulatory Environment

Prior to the breakup of the FSU there was not a strong, independent regulator responsible to establish safety standards and oversee their implementation. While Ukraine has established a nuclear regulatory authority, it lacks the experience and the framework of codes and standards necessary to function effectively. In addition, full-scope safety evaluations did not exist for nuclear reactors in Ukraine. As a result, there was little basis for prioritizing safety upgrade efforts or for quantifying the risks present at the plants. Operators of the plants had incomplete understanding of the design basis and safe operating envelope of their own plants. Definition of safe operating limits and procedures for managing off-normal events were based on doctrine more than on independently validated analyses.

GOSCOMATOM, which was formed after collapse of the Soviet Union, is responsible for operation of all nuclear power plants in Ukraine. Among its specific responsibilities is the acquisition of nuclear fuel and treatment and disposal of waste. GOSCOMATOM has had limited effectiveness because of lack of funds. Recent restructuring of the Ukrainian nuclear industry has established a new utility (ENERGOATOM). This new utility will be state-owned initially, with the possibility of privatization later. This restructuring will enable Ukraine to seek loans to finish the two partially complete VVER reactors at Rivne and Khmelnytskyy.

2.2.4 Spent Fuel Storage

Prior to Ukrainian independence, spent fuel from VVER-type reactors was returned to Russia for reprocessing. Storage pools at the reactors were designed to accommodate fuel discharged over a period of three years. Since independence, cost and policy issues have made it difficult for Ukraine to continue to return spent fuel to Russia. The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant was faced with either temporarily adopting potentially unsafe fuel storage options or halting operation. Halting operation would have significantly reduced the chances for achieving agreement to close the Chornobyl Plant. Although this storage problem has occurred first at Zaporizhzhya, it can be anticipated at the other Ukrainian VVER reactor sites in time.

2.2.5 Communications

The combination of the Soviet tradition of secrecy and compartmentalization and the priority on production over safety have resulted in nuclear plants operating without an accurate, comprehensive system for reporting off-normal events, corrective actions, lessons learned, or equipment reliability problems. In the United States, information relating to failure of critical equipment can be promulgated throughout the network of plants that may be using that component in order to take corrective action before the part fails. In the former Soviet states, the inability to learn from past problems and the operating experiences of others is further exacerbated by the absence of sound problem analysis and reporting methods, as well as by the absence of risk-based prioritization of potential problems encountered and the corrective actions taken. The first step in addressing these shortcomings is to establish modern, computer-based communications among plants, regulators and with international bodies such as the IAEA and the World Association of Nuclear Operators.

2.2.6 Rate Structure and Nonpayment of Electrical Bills

The price of electricity paid by consumers in Ukraine is considerably below the full cost of producing that electricity.8 This artificially low cost of electricity encourages the waste of energy in all sectors of Ukraine's economy. Many business entities and residential electricity consumers in Ukraine do not pay for the electricity they use.9 For example, the Kyiv Energomarket markets electricity produced at Chornobyl but is not reimbursing the nuclear power plants. Revenues obtained from the sales of electrical power by Kyiv Energomarket are provided preferentially to the fossil fuel industry in response to the balance of payments problem with Russia and the influence of coal miners.

2.3 Russia

2.3.1 Nuclear Power Reactors

There are 29 nuclear power reactors operating at 9 sites in Russia, providing 12.5% of the electricity generated in the country.10 The oldest, Novovoronezh-3, came on-line in 1972; the newest, Balakovo-4, in 1993.

2.3.2 Plutonium Production Reactors

In addition to these power reactors, Russia has three plutonium production reactors. One of these production reactors is at Krasnoyarsk and has been operating since 1964. Two production reactors are located at Tomsk, and have been operational since 1964 and 1965. While Russia no longer needs these reactors for production of weapons-grade plutonium, the reactors provide essential heat and electricity to the surrounding regions in Siberia. The United States is working with Russia to eliminate production of weapons-grade plutonium in these reactors, and improve their safety.

2.3.3 Safety, Regulatory Culture; Communications; Rate Structure

Generally, the problems Russia faces in these areas are very similar to those faced by Ukraine, inasmuch as they are the product of common Soviet heritage.

3.0 What is Needed?

3.1 Equipment, Technology and Training

Safety problems with nuclear power plants can develop from the plant hardware or from human performance of plant operations. These two general categories of safety problems are referred to here as systems safety - analogous to the design safety designation used by IAEA - and operational safety, respectively. With regard to systems safety, numerous deficiencies are evident in the hardware of Soviet-designed reactors, such as inaccurate instruments, unreliable electrical systems, deficient materials and components, and inadequate backup equipment. Operational safety, involving human performance, includes the conduct of operations, maintenance, and training; the employment of procedures to control critical activities; and the use and maintenance of engineering design bases which establish the safe limits for operation, maintenance and modification of the plant. Studies of the contribution of human error to plant risk have shown it is very sensitive to the quality of human performance, particularly when that quality is below average. The U.S. program includes projects that address both system safety and operational safety.

In order to improve the safety of Ukrainian and Russian nuclear reactors, the United States is working with these countries to assess safety needs, prioritize safety upgrades, and transfer the necessary training, methods and technology. The basic areas emphasized for U.S. cooperation include: 1) procedures and practices for safe plant operations; 2) physical conditions of the plants; 3) capabilities for performing safety evaluations that meet international standards; and 4) legislation to support strong, independent nuclear plant regulation and domestic indemnification for nuclear liability.

The U.S. projects of cooperation associated with Soviet-designed reactors are intended to improve the ability of Russia and Ukraine nuclear power plants to meet the following objectives:

  • Reactor design and hardware should minimize potential for a loss-of-coolant accident.
  • Instrumentation and control equipment should be accurate, reliable, and properly calibrated and maintained.
  • Emergency core cooling and residual heat removal systems should be designed and maintained to provide essential core cooling during design basis accidents.
  • Fire prevention and protection hardware and systems should adequately protect operators and safety systems.
  • Confinement should minimize the release of contamination under design basis accident scenarios.
  • Electric power systems should be adequately designed and reliable.
  • Shut down and scram capability should be properly designed and reliable.
  • Power regulation should be adequate to maintain power within safe limits.
  • Probability of safety incidents caused by human error should be reduced.
  • Accident analyses and the associated design documents that establish the limits for safe operations, maintenance, and modification of the plants should be available to the operators and be consistent with international standards.
  • Components should be qualified for service in the environments in which they are expected to perform.

As outlined in section 2.1.2, Safety Issues, of this report, multinational experts from the IAEA inspect and evaluate the safety of Soviet-designed nuclear plants. The Department has reviewed numerous IAEA evaluations. These reports describe the significant safety issues identified during the course of these inspections. For comparative purposes, the IAEA Systems Safety issues have been divided into nine categories and the IAEA Operational Safety issues into six. These IAEA categories and typical projects of the U.S. program that fall within them are presented graphically in figures 2 and 3.

IAEA categories
and INSP projects

IAEA categories and INSP projects

Figure 2 shows the correlation between U.S. projects and systems safety issues identified by IAEA at Soviet-designed reactors. Similarly, Figure 3 shows the correlation between U.S. projects addressing operational safety issues and the number of such issues identified by IAEA.

Additional needs identification is provided by probabilistic risk assessments for these plants. These assessments indicate that the greatest reduction in risk can be achieved by addressing the following safety issues:

  • loss of coolant accident;
  • instrumentation and control;
  • emergency core cooling and residual heat removal;
  • fire prevention and protection; and
  • electrical power systems.

In addition to addressing the issues identified by the IAEA, projects in the U.S. program of cooperation are focusing efforts in those areas listed above for which the greatest reduction in risk can be achieved.

3.2 Beyond Technology

Transfer of equipment and technology alone, however, is not sufficient. New safety habits and approaches are needed to grow a healthier nuclear power industry in Ukraine and Russia. Well trained, safety-conscious operators can improve the safety of operations with even the most basic equipment; conversely, however, the most modern equipment cannot compensate for the increased risk to safety posed by personnel without adequate training or safety awareness and commitment.

To ensure that programs of technical cooperation facilitate the development of a safe, robust -- and eventually independent -- nuclear power industry in these countries, the United States is structuring programs consistent with the following goals:

  • Support economic and regulatory reform.
  • Cultivate a sustainable safety infrastructure that outlasts the equipment provided. A viable safety infrastructure provides the basis from which these countries can maintain the operation and regulation of their nuclear industry consistent with international standards.
  • Coordinate with existing in-country capabilities; other elements of U.S. technical cooperation; and programs of technical cooperation provided by other international partners, primarily the G-7.

4.0 International Response

4.1 International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has as an element of its statute to assist in the application of standards of safety for protection of health and to minimize danger to life and property at nuclear facilities of member States. Therefore, IAEA is able to provide valuable independent assessments of nuclear plant design, operating practices, and accident prevention programs of reactors in Ukraine and Russia. It was at a meeting sponsored by the IAEA following the Chornobyl accident in 1986 that the Soviet Union requested international cooperation to improve the safety and operation of Soviet-designed nuclear power plants. Since then, IAEA has provided an independent forum for examining issues germane to the safe operation of these reactors. The IAEA assessments have examined the overall safety program as well as specific issues for each plant or plant type, such as reactor vessel integrity, primary circuits, safety and support systems, confinement, conduct of operations, seismic safety, containment performance, emergency feedwater systems, leakage at the steam generators, ventilation of control rooms, instrumentation and control, and fire protection.

4.2 The Lisbon Initiative, Group of Seven and Group of 24

At the May 1992 meeting of the Group of Seven (G-7) held in Lisbon, the United States announced a Multilateral Nuclear Safety Initiative for cooperative work with the states of the FSU concerning operational safety enhancements, risk reduction measures, and nuclear safety regulation.11

Shortly thereafter, at their 1992 meeting in Munich, the countries of the Group of Seven (G-7) pledged their support to improving the safety of nuclear reactors in the NIS.12 The G-7 endorsed a plan to develop a near-term program of action in operational safety improvements, near-term technical improvements, and enhancing regulatory regimes. At that time, the G-7 also opened the door to consideration of replacing power generated by less safe plants with alternative energy sources and with more efficient use of energy, and to upgrade newer Soviet-design plants.

At the 1992 Munich meeting, the G-7 further agreed to establish a mechanism to provide funding for safety initiatives that were not being covered by bilateral assistance projects, calling for the new funding arrangement to be coordinated with and assisted by the Group of 24 (G-24) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Subsequently, the Nuclear Safety Account (NSA) was established in February 1993 and has sponsored several projects in Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Russia.13 The G-24 efforts are also supported by the World Organization of Nuclear Operators (WANO) who suggest improvements to reactors in Eastern Europe and the NIS.

On December 20, 1995, the G-7 countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ukraine to implement a comprehensive program to support the closure of the remaining units of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and revitalize Ukraine's power sector.14 The program of cooperation contained in the MOU includes four elements: power sector reforms to create a national electricity market; least-cost power supply and efficiency investments to meet national power demand; nuclear safety issues associated with Chornobyl; and the social impact of closing the plant.

The G-7 MOU includes a flexible financing mechanism that starts with an investment of $3 billion from the G-7, Ukrainian and other donor sources, and allows funding to be expanded as new projects are developed and approved. As a component of the agreement, the G-7 has identified as one of several priorities the possible completion and upgrade to international safety standards the two partially completed reactors at Rivne and Khmelnytskyy. Loans to carry out this project are pending based on a least-cost economic analysis, including costs of safety upgrades, environmental impact, and financial due diligence. The MOU also includes consideration of the following projects: decommissioning of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant; Unit 3 safety upgrades; stabilization of the sarcophagus built to surround Unit 4 after the 1986 accident; and development of the Chornobyl Center on Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology at Slavutych.

4.3 European Union (TACIS)

The European Union committed to providing technical assistance for nuclear safety to the Soviet Union, and has provided assistance to the successor states from the time of dissolution of the former Soviet Union. Projects supported by the TACIS program in Russia and Ukraine have involved safety systems upgrades, waste management, emergency procedures, measurement technology and training. The European Union also allocated approximately $25 million for projects sponsored by the International Science and Technology Center. Support to Russian and Ukrainian nuclear reactor safety through the TACIS program amounted to over $350 million for the period from its beginning in 1991 through 1994.

In 1994, the European Union also promised to provide $126 million to help Ukraine develop alternatives that would enable them to close down Chornobyl as early as possible. This initiative established the basis for the MOU signed between the countries of the G-7 and Ukraine mentioned above.

4.4 Bilateral Assistance

In addition to these programs of cooperation, Russia and Ukraine have entered into bilateral assistance agreements with a number of countries, including the United States, Japan, Germany, Canada, Sweden and Finland. These efforts include personnel exchanges, operator and regulator training, development of accident procedures, installation of a coolant leakage early-warning system, upgrades to fire safety equipment, provision of simulators, and data communications equipment.

Cooperative projects undertaken by the United States are summarized in the remainder of this report.

5.0 What is the United States Doing?

5.1 General

The United States committed to the implementation of the Lisbon Initiative in separate agreements with Russia and Ukraine, concluded October 23 and December 16, 1993, respectively.15,16 DOE and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) are responsible for management of the program of cooperation. Funding for the program began in 1992 with $25 million through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The work originally was limited in its scope of activities and focused on the oldest reactor designs. However, the scope has since been broadened, so that the agreements with both Russia and Ukraine now include a range of safety-related activities and four reactor design types: RBMK, VVER-440/230, VVER-440/213 and VVER-1000. To date, funding for U.S. cooperative work with all seven recipient countries totals $180 million. Funding from all countries contributing to improving the safety of VVER and RBMK reactors to date totals approximately $1 billion. 17

DOE's program is structured to address needs in the following jointly identified areas:

  • Management and Operational Safety;
  • Engineering and Technology;
  • Plant Safety Evaluations;
  • Fuel Cycle Safety;
  • Nuclear Safety Legislative and Regulatory Framework;
  • Chornobyl Initiative;
  • Cessation of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production

5.2 Ukraine

5.2.1 Management and Operational Safety
5.2.1.1 Operator Exchange Program

Operator exchanges enable Ukrainian nuclear plant personnel to observe first-hand the emphasis that U.S. operators place on safety and the use of modern approaches to plant operation. Emphasis is on conduct of operations, training, and the use of symptom-based emergency operating instructions (EOIs).

Six operator exchanges have occurred. Nineteen staff from Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant participated in exchanges with three U.S. nuclear power plants at Hatch, Georgia; Duane Arnold, Iowa; and Brunswick, North Carolina. Nine staff from Rivne Nuclear Power Plant participated in exchanges at two U.S. plants at Byron, Illinois, and Point Beach, Wisconsin. Finally, three operators from Zaporizhzhya were hosted at the Wolf Creek Nuclear Plant in Kansas.

5.2.1.2 Conduct of Operations

A working group of representatives from Soviet-designed nuclear power plants, U.S. industry, and DOE is developing guidelines and procedures for Soviet-designed nuclear power plants operating in Ukraine. The guidelines describe how various operational activities will be conducted consistent with international safety standards. After drafting, review, and implementation at a pilot plant, plant-specific procedures will be developed and implemented at the remaining plants.

5.2.1.3 Simulators

Realistic training simulators allow operators to experience and practice managing off-normal conditions that could, without operator action, lead to serious accidents. The U.S. and Ukraine have launched a major technology transfer project that will ensure that within three to five years, Ukraine will have the capability to design, build, and maintain full-scope simulators.

The first full-scope control room simulator is being designed and constructed for the Khmelnytskyy Nuclear Power Plant. Twenty-two Ukrainian specialists completed an extended on-the-job training program at the U.S. contractor, S3 Technologies in Columbia, Maryland, participating in the design and development of the Khmelnytskyy simulator. The simulator will be used for both operator training and validation of symptom-based EOIs. A Ukrainian firm, Energotraining, with help from the Khmelnytskyy plant, completed the shipment of simulator control panels from the reactor site to Energotraining's facilities.

Full-scope simulators also are being developed for the South Ukraine 1, South Ukraine 3, and Rivne plants and an analytical simulator is being developed for the Chornobyl plant.

5.2.1.4 Training

Effective operator training is key to the safe operation of nuclear power plants. In addition to the use of realistic simulators, the United States is transferring training methodologies, materials and equipment that have been found to enhance the quality of training programs in the U.S. for use in Ukraine. A training center has been established at Khmelnytskyy Nuclear Power Plant, where 7 of 11 planned pilot training courses have been completed, three special training programs have been given, and training equipment has been provided. Training improvements are being extended to other plants in Ukraine.

5.2.1.5 Symptom-Based Emergency Operating Instructions

Prior to the accident at Three Mile Island (TMI), plant operators in the United States used event-based procedures to evaluate and respond to off-normal conditions. If the operator is unable to determine which specific event is responsible for the abnormal conditions, event-based procedures can fail. Following TMI, U.S. plant operators began to use symptom-based emergency operating instructions, using control room indications to take corrective actions based solely on the observed symptoms. Operators of Soviet-designed nuclear power plants also can benefit from this alternative approach to evaluating off-normal conditions.

Projects are under way in Ukraine to transfer U.S. methodologies for developing and implementing symptom-based EOIs for the VVER and RBMK design nuclear power plants. Nineteen of 38 EOIs have been drafted for the Rivne VVER-440/213 plant. All 48 EOIs have been drafted for the Zaporizhzhya VVER-1000 plant; basic EOI development equipment has been provided; and analytical calculations and preparation of Technical Basis Documents have begun. For the Chornobyl RBMK design reactors, 60% of the EOI flow-chart strategies have been completed, equipment for flow-charting the EOIs has been provided.

5.2.2 Engineering and Technology
5.2.2.1 Fire Safety

Fire safety projects undertaken in cooperation with the Ukrainians are intended to help prevent, detect, and mitigate the consequences of fires which can result in injury to plant personnel, loss of equipment, plant down-time, as well as damage to critical nuclear safety-related equipment and systems. Fire safety projects have included training programs for fire hazard analysis and transfer of tools and equipment to help reduce fire risks. Fire suppression and detection equipment has been delivered to the Zaporizhzhya plant, including fire fighting suits and helmets, self-contained breathing apparatus, sprinkler heads, hose nozzles, and fire penetration sealant and communications equipment. A Ukrainian firm, Asken, has received training on manufacturing fire doors that meet international safety standards and is now producing those doors for the Zaporizhzhya plant. At Chornobyl, sample fire protection equipment has been provided and demonstrated. Needs analysis has been completed and a full complement of fire protection equipment is being purchased.

5.2.3 Plant Safety Evaluations
5.2.3.1 Ukraine Safety Evaluation Codes

The United States is working with Ukraine to develop an in-country capability to perform and maintain up-to-date safety evaluations. Furthermore, the United States and Ukraine are working together to ensure that those safety evaluations will be used for determining safe operating limits and for developing EOIs.

Two Sun SPARC 20 workstations with ten X-Terminals each now are located at the Energoproject Institute in Kyiv and at the Scientific Center at the Ukraine Institute of Nuclear Research. Ukrainian experts successfully completed training on the RELAP computer program used for accident analysis in the United States held by Scientech at the Energoproject Institute in Kyiv. Efforts are under way to obtain Ukrainian membership in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Code Analysis Maintenance Program, providing Ukraine continuing access to the NRC safety analysis codes, including future updates.

5.2.4 Fuel Cycle Safety
5.2.4.1 Dry Cask Spent Fuel Storage System

In response to the critical shortage of storage for spent fuel at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, the United States initiated an effort to provide spent fuel storage casks to the plant and to transfer the technology for fabricating the casks to Ukraine. Operating procedures specific to the Zaporizhzhya plant have been completed. U.S. experts provided hands-on training to Ukrainian regulators using U.S. computer programs to calculate predicted cask conditions, and Zaporizhzhya staff observed cask loading at the Palisades Nuclear Facility in Michigan to obtain first-hand knowledge of cask operations. Duke Engineering & Services Inc. was awarded the contract to provide three dry storage casks, a cask transporter, and associated services and training, most of which have been delivered to Ukraine.

5.2.5 Chornobyl Initiatives
5.2.5.1 Chornobyl Center on Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology

The United States has been cooperating with Ukraine on the establishment of the Chornobyl Center on Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology. The Center is located in the city of Slavutych, near Chornobyl. The objectives of the Center are to:

  • Develop indigenous capabilities for providing operational safety support to Ukrainian nuclear power plants;
  • Provide a focal point for international cooperation addressing environmental issues at Chornobyl; and,
  • Address socioeconomic concerns and issues associated with the future shutdown of the operating Chornobyl reactors by providing a starting point for diversifying the area's economic base and maintaining reactor personnel during and after reactor shutdown.

Research projects at the Center are expected to include topics such as risk assessment; new technologies for decontamination and decommissioning; spent fuel management; nuclear data capabilities; and improved telecommunications.

Improved telecommunications among nuclear power plants in Ukraine and with counterparts in the United States will be an important component of the research at the Center. To facilitate that communication, satellite equipment has been installed at the Center's headquarters in Slavutych. This equipment enables the transmission of voice, facsimile, data, and electronic mail to and from anywhere in the world. The system design anticipates eventual addition of videoconferencing capability to encourage collaborative training opportunities.

5.2.5.2 Near-Term Safety Enhancements

The Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant lacks comprehensive fire protection systems which could result in the loss of ability to control the reactor. Fire safety upgrades are being implemented at Chornobyl Unit 3 that will reduce the likelihood and consequences of possible fires. Bechtel Power Corporation was awarded the contract to provide fire detection and protection equipment and materials have been provided to Chornobyl plant operators for evaluation. Other projects and technology transfer described previously, such as exchange visits and transfer of fire door manufacturing technology, also provide near-term safety improvement at Chornobyl.

5.3 Russia

5.3.1 Management and Operational Safety
5.3.1.1 Operator Exchange Program

Russian nuclear power plant operators have been visiting U.S. nuclear plants to observe first-hand U.S. practices of operational safety particularly with respect to conduct of operations, training, and EOIs. These visits, coordinated by the World Association of Nuclear Operators in cooperation with various U.S. nuclear utilities, have been funded in part by DOE since 1994. In January 1995, staff from Smolensk and Kursk reactor sites visited Duane Arnold plant in Iowa; representatives from Smolensk and Leningrad visited the Hatch plant in Georgia; and Leningrad operators visited the Zion nuclear plant in Illinois. In September 1995, the Point Beach, Wisconsin, plant hosted staff members from the Kola plant, with special attention to understanding U.S. EOIs. Finally, six representatives from RDIPE, Smolensk, Kursk and Leningrad nuclear power plants visited Duane Arnold plant in Iowa in September 1995.

5.3.1.2 Conduct of Operations

A working group composed of representa-tives from Russian nuclear power plants, U.S. industry, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, and DOE is developing improved operating procedures for Soviet-designed plants. The group has developed 16 standard guidelines describing how various operational activities are to be conducted. These guidelines are based on U.S. Institute of Nuclear Power Operations Good Practices and have been modified as appropriate for use at the Soviet-designed power plants.

5.3.1.3 Training and Simulators

The Balakovo Training Center was established as the pilot training site for Russia. A U.S. contractor, Sonalysts, Inc., was selected to assist with developing the training programs needed at Balakovo. Training efforts in Russia are aimed at improving the qualifications of nuclear power plant personnel by: 1) working with the Balakovo Training Center to improve training programs; 2) teaching the Systematic Approach to Training; and 3) providing the basic equipment necessary for specific courses being developed at the Training Center. Since 1994, 13 of 18 general courses have been completed and training provided. In addition, a U.S.-sponsored joint Russia-Ukraine International Nuclear Safety Training Program Conference was held in June 1995 in St. Petersburg to communicate the ongoing programs at the Balakovo and Khmelnytskyy Training Centers and to initiate the process of transferring the technology to other nuclear plants.

As a component of training, simulator hardware and software are being provided to Russia for operator training and use in validating emergency operating procedures. Equipment and software for development of full-scope analytical simulators are being provided to four Russian sites: Balakovo, Kola, Kalinin, and Novovoronezh.

5.3.1.4 Symptom-Based Emergency Operating Instructions

Projects are under way in Russia to transfer U.S. methodologies for developing and imple-menting symptom-based EOIs for the VVER and RBMK design nuclear power plants. A significant milestone was recently achieved when 22 of 32 planned EOIs were implemented at the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant, a VVER-440/230. The procedures were approved by Rosenergoatom, the Russian utility owner, and are in use at the plant. These are the first EOIs approved by Rosenergoatom and implemented at a Russian nuclear plant. All planned EOIs (48) have been drafted for the VVER-1000 Balakovo nuclear plant. For Kola, the VVER-440/213 pilot plant, 70% of EOIs have been drafted. For the Smolensk RBMK design nuclear plant, 60% of the EOI flow-chart strategies have been completed.

5.3.1.5 Maintenance Technology Transfer and Training

Cooperative work in the area of maintenance technologies and training is important for two reasons. First, a large percentage of safety-related accidents at Soviet-designed nuclear power plants are traceable to errors in the performance of maintenance. Second, plant safety systems must be maintained using the most current technology and expertise to ensure that they work efficiently when needed in emer- gencies or other abnormal conditions. Mainte-nance activities in Russia focus on RBMK reactors, though the results of these activities will be applicable to all Soviet-designed reactors.

In 1995, Russian and U.S. representatives agreed on the scope of the maintenance project. Russian participants are from the Russian regulatory organizations, the Smolensk Training Center, and the Smolensk and Kursk nuclear power plants. U.S. participants are from the Electric Power Research Institute, DOE and its laboratories. The project is focusing on transferring Western maintenance methods, establishing a maintenance experience data bank, improving maintenance training curricula, and establishing an RBMK plant maintenance advisory board. Based on the recommendations of Russian and U.S. experts, the United States is providing the technologies and equipment determined to provide the most rapid improve-ment in maintenance performance at the plants. Four maintenance technologies (vibration monitoring, shaft alignment, pipe lathe/weld prep and in-situ valve repair) are being transferred.

5.3.2 Engineering and Technology

The United States is transferring to Russia the techniques, tools, and equipment, and practices needed to improve plant operating safety. Improvements focus on upgrading fire safety systems, radiation confinement systems, and engineered safety systems.

Guidelines for developing fire hazard analyses for Soviet-designed nuclear plants have been prepared. The guidelines identify ways to prevent fires and reduce the risk of radioactive releases from fire-initiated accidents. Protective equipment for fire fighters, fire suppression systems, and fire detection and alarm equipment were provided to the Smolensk and Leningrad nuclear power plants. Ultrasonic test equipment and protective suits were provided to the Kursk plant for detecting leaks in the reactor coolant system. The leak-tightness of the Kola plant radiation confinement systems was improved with new gaskets and sealant materials, radiation isolation valves, and a post-accident radiation monitor. A more reliable direct-current power system in the form of safety-grade DC batteries was provided to the Kola plant to replace the former glass batteries.

Westinghouse Electric Company is providing safety parameter display systems for ten RBMK plants and one VVER 440/230 type plant. These systems, common in U.S. nuclear plants, provide visual displays of plant critical safety functions that enable reactor operators to make informed, timely decisions in abnormal or emergency situations. A mobile emergency water supply is being to the Novovoronezh plant.

5.3.3 Plant Safety Evaluations

U.S. and Russian experts are working together to provide enhanced plant safety evaluations. Evaluation results are used to determine the most significant risks and set priorities for safety upgrades. In the first pilot project for this work, U.S., Swedish, and British experts are providing technical assistance on an in-depth safety assessment of the Leningrad Unit 2 reactor. DOE and the Russian Science and Engineering Center for Nuclear Radiation Safety are planning a detailed safety analysis of the Novovoronezh plant. DOE, IVO International of Finland, and the Kola plant representatives are working on an in-depth safety analysis of the Kola plant.

5.3.4 Nuclear Safety Legislative and Regulatory Framework

U.S. representatives are working with Russian regulatory officials to support the development of basic nuclear laws and regulations. This work will strengthen the roles of the regulatory agencies to provide long-term, independent oversight, guidance, and licensing of Soviet-designed reactors. A key goal is adherence to international nuclear safety and liability conventions or treaties. Another goal is domestic indemnification for nuclear liability, to enable greater use of advanced western safety technologies in Soviet-designed reactors. Projects are closely coordinated with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In 1995, U.S. and Russian experts reviewed and commented on upcoming Russian nuclear liability legislation. U.S. and Gosatomnadzor (GAN) representatives signed two protocols for fiscal year 1996 on cooperation in unlicensed research reactors and fuel cycle facilities. These protocols provide for the exchange of technical information and analytical tools and the training of inspectors.

6.0 Issues

In the Conference Report, Congress asked DOE to address the following specific issues relating to nuclear reactor safety in Ukraine and Russia. These issues are addressed in the context of the current programs and ongoing discussions.

6.1 Feasibility of Obtaining Alternative Energy Sources

Nuclear power plants provide about one-third of the electricity generated in Ukraine. The most problematic, the two remaining Chornobyl reactors, provide about seven percent. There are several technically feasible alternatives to replace the power produced by the Chornobyl reactors, as described below. However, implementing these alternatives to the extent necessary to accommodate the closure of Chornobyl will require both time and significant investment capital given the current socio-economic conditions in Ukraine.

6.1.1 Eliminating Energy Waste

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Energy Information Agency audits suggest that Ukraine can substantially reduce its energy consumption if energy prices are liberalized, payments collected, and industrial managers made responsible for cutting costs. Industrial savings opportunities in the electrical sector average about 12 percent compared to 1994 consumption. Residential and commercial energy waste also is quite large. Given appropriate incentives and adequate investment capital, near-term savings in the 10 to 12 percent range appear to be a plausible goal. Over the longer term, savings on the order of 35 percent may be possible.

6.1.2 Rehabilitation of Coal, Oil and Gas Fired Generating Plants

Most of Ukraine's coal, oil, or gas fueled generating plants are quite old and suffer from poor maintenance. In addition, the quality of available coal is so poor that it must be mixed with oil or gas to be burned in many of these plants. DOE has worked with Ukraine to attract funding for upgrading these plants and the coal preparation facilities to extend life, increase efficiency and capacity, reduce pollution, and reduce the consumption of supplemental fuel (oil and gas). A U.S./Ukraine Task Force currently is working to obtain a World Bank loan to upgrade one 200-megawatt boiler at the Lugansk Power Plant. While this is a good start, it represents only about 3 percent of the output of the remaining Chornobyl reactors.

6.1.3 Hydropower Rehabilitation

Hydroelectric plants provide about 9 percent of Ukraine's electricity. Major upgrades, financed by the World Bank, are expected to begin during the next several years. While these upgrades will significantly improve reliability, lower operating costs and allow Ukraine to better meet peak demands, they will not replace existing fossil fueled or nuclear generating plants.

6.1.4 Completion of Partially Constructed VVER 1000 Nuclear Power Plants

Least-cost analysis is underway to determine the economic, environmental and financial feasibility of finishing the partially complete VVER-1000 reactors at Rivne and Khmelnytskyy in compliance with international safety practices. Together, these two plants would offset the generating capacity lost by the closure of Chornobyl and potentially could re-employ some of the highly-skilled nuclear operators from that facility.

6.1.5 Domestic Oil and Gas Redevelopment

Many Ukrainian oil and gas fields are believed to have excellent remaining potential. DOE, along with USAID and several Ukrainian government organizations, sponsored an oil and gas conference in Houston in January 1996. This conference generated considerable interest among oil and gas development companies which led to a follow-up conference in Ukraine in October 1996. The follow-up conference addressed specific legislative and regulatory issues and provided additional technical information on selected exploration and development opportunities. Additional initiatives designed to attract investment in Ukrainian oil and gas production are pending USAID funding. While increasing domestic oil and gas production is an important element in dealing with Ukraine's balance of payments problem, it is not likely to represent a near-term alternative to the continued operation of Chornobyl.

6.1.6 Domestic Coal Development

Coal is Ukraine's most important indigenous fuel resource, providing about 20 percent of the nation's energy. Much of Ukraine's easily-mined reserves have been exhausted. The great depth, thin seams, and high methane content of Ukraine's remaining coal present substantial challenges. Also, the government's retention of a controlling interest in any coal joint venture reduces the interest of prospective foreign investors. Ukraine has launched an ambitious program to reform the coal industry. These reforms, designed to streamline this vast industry, are expected to cost as many as 100,000 jobs in 1996 alone. While the government appears to be committed to proceeding with these important reforms, the large number of displaced workers in the politically and economically important coal sector is a serious concern for government officials.

6.2 Loss of Trained Nuclear Reactor Operators

The desperate state of the economy in the towns surrounding nuclear power plants in Ukraine and Russia is sufficient reason to be concerned about the potential loss of trained nuclear reactor operators from these regions. Further, some operators working at plants in Ukraine were Russian citizens who returned to Russia with the break-up of the Soviet Union. The 1994 annual report of the Ukrainian nuclear regulatory authority noted an increase in the number of malfunctions at nuclear plants caused by human error. This trend was attributed to the economic difficulties and institutional uncer-tainties following the break-up of the FSU. The report states that 9,000 nuclear plant operators have resigned since 1992; this has a profoundly increased effect on the number of malfunctions caused by newly recruited personnel. Currently, however, there is probably little mobility among those remaining because there are few options left open to them.

The programs of international cooperation described in this report provide incentive for plant operators to continue working in their fields. These programs provide some stabilization in the local economies, the opportunity to continue working, and improved working conditions for plant personnel. To the extent that progress is made in establishing a fair market for the electricity produced, increasing revenues to the plant and surrounding region, conditions will improve for the individual staff as well.

Finally, continuation of these programs with improved communications nationally and internationally will provide a window on the status of workers in these distressed areas.

6.3 Likelihood of Operator Error or Accidents

As indicated earlier in this report, accidents arising from operator error are well recognized to be a significant source of risk in nuclear power plant operations. At the same time, human performance is one of the systems that shows improvement with even modest investments in training, simulation, and communications. The programs of cooperation being coordinated in Russia and Ukraine have a major emphasis on strengthening the operational safety aspects of these plants. The Ukrainian regulatory report mentioned above, while noting the increase in the percentage of errors caused by human error, also shows a decrease in the total number of malfunctions during the same period.

The United States and other nations are sponsoring detailed risk assessments at seven Soviet-designed reactors. The results of these analyses will provide a quantitative basis to compare the likelihood of accidents in Soviet-designed reactors with international expectations. They will also provide valuable input in prioritizing assistance programs to address the most urgent needs.

6.4 Need for Computerized Monitoring

While many of the problems associated with the safety of Soviet-designed nuclear reactors arise from the design basis, and are therefore not readily amenable to retrofitted solutions, moni-toring of plant operations and the automation of monitoring systems is one area in which both system safety and operational safety can be enhanced. Accordingly, DOE's program includes several key projects, described below, to improve automated monitoring at the plants.

6.4.1 Safety Parameter Display System

Safety Parameter Display Systems (SPDS) assist the control room operators during abnormal and emergency conditions in determining the status of the plant and the corrective actions, if any, required to prevent damage to the reactor. The SPDS is a concise, computer-based display of critical safety parameters that supplements, but does not replace, existing control room instruments. It is designed to support the efficient implementation of symptom-based emergency operating procedures by the control room operators.

The United States currently is providing SPDS systems for RBMK and VVER reactors. This includes developmental units at the two reactor design organizations and ten plant units. In general, the SPDS provides indication of critical safety functions such as reactivity control; core cooling, heat removal, and primary coolant inventory; primary system integrity; and containment status.

6.4.2 Reliability Database

An integral part of a maintenance program that ensures the reliability of safety-related equipment is the monitoring and feedback of equipment performance. A database of quantitative information regarding operational history, equipment and component failures and system reliability can be used to monitor and adjust the maintenance program. Such a database can help in establishing the time period between replacing and overhauling components, planning the periodic testing of equipment, determining the cause of component failure, and selecting reliable spare parts. The objective for this work is to establish databases similar to those in the United States, in both Ukraine and Russia.

6.4.3 Non-Destructive Examination Center

Non-destructive evaluation of welds, piping, pressure vessels and other vital equipment is essential for the safe operation of nuclear power plants. Projects have been initiated in Russia and Ukraine to transfer non-destructive evaluation methods for detecting flaws caused by aging, fatigue, or corrosion before they jeopar-dize the ability of the affected systems or components to perform their intended safety functions.

6.5 Need for More Reliable Communications Network

As indicated in this report, many of the problems associated with Soviet-designed reactors are a direct result of the technical isolation of reactor designers and operators, and continue to be confounded by isolation due to geography and language. Improved telecommunications among nuclear power plants in the NIS and with counterparts in the United States is critical to continued safety improvements over time. Orion/Atlantic was awarded a contract to install satellite equipment at the Chornobyl Center on Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology in Slavutych, Ukraine. The equipment enables the transmission of voice, facsimile, and electronic mail to and from anywhere in the world. The system design anticipates eventual addition of videoconferencing capability to encourage collaborative training opportunities.

Facilitating the ability of nuclear power plant operators to communicate easily may provide the most enduring and fundamental improvements in nuclear reactor operations in the NIS.

7.0 Recommendations

7.1 Keep A Clear Vision

The following vision defines success for DOE's program to improve the safety of Soviet-designed nuclear-power plants:

  • A nuclear industry staffed by personnel with necessary training, experience and motivation (including appropriate compensation from their employers based on nuclear's contribution to the national economy).
  • Nuclear industry infrastructure comprised of personnel who are safety-conscious, self-motivated, well-informed, well-trained, performing independent safety assessments, and instituting changes necessary to bring plant operations to international safety standards.
  • A stable energy economy in which states of the FSU seek goods and services at competitive rates, and U.S. nuclear suppliers are among those tendering offers and receiving awards.
  • A healthy balance of payments between Ukraine, Russia, and others that permits flexibility in the use of all energy-producing resources.
  • An energy utility that can establish realistic market value for energy produced, and customers who pay fair market price for electricity provided.
  • A knowledgeable and independent nuclear regulatory body that monitors plant operation with the authority to correct problems that put nuclear plants at risk, including shutting them down, if warranted.
  • A system of indemnification that provides protection against liability commensurate with other nations so that U.S. firms can support the NIS nuclear program directly, without undue financial risk.

These goals for safe nuclear operation in Russia and Ukraine are ambitious, but achievable over time. These countries face many problems in evolving their nuclear power industry to meet international practices of safety. Achieving these goals requires long-term commitment, continuing willingness to act on the problems that exist at present, and recognition that the problems that must be addressed are not limited to the structure and functioning of the nuclear power enterprise alone.

7.2 Understand the Reach and Limitations of International Cooperation

International programs of cooperation are critical to achieving these goals, but they will not be sufficient. Thus, technical cooperation in nuclear safety should be structured consistent with the goals reflected in the vision of success, keeping in perspective the scope of the problems confronting the nuclear industry in these countries.

7.3 Continue to Offer the Right Cooperation at the Right Time

International cooperation in nuclear safety has been focused on the highest priority requirement: reducing the risk of imminent accidents at high-risk Soviet-designed reactors. With the transfer of technologies, the beginning of reactor safety assessments, and initiation of operator training, operational and systems safety at these reactors has been enhanced, and the risk of imminent accidents is being reduced.

Beyond the objective of reducing near-term risk, continuing to take the following steps -- given in priority order -- will help to ensure that these nations can establish an independent, self-sustaining nuclear safety infrastructure:

  • Reduce the highest near-term risks, and help to avoid accidents.
  • Develop indigenous capability to assess nuclear plant safety and to take corrective actions as needed.
  • Achieve a self-sustaining safety culture.
  • Develop conditions that will facilitate closure of high-risk reactors.

While DOE's program is structured to encourage growth, independence, and a self-sustaining safety culture in Russia and Ukraine, neither country has yet achieved that objective. Continued progress requires continued cooperation with the United States.

Beyond the current plans for continued technical cooperation, there are activities in each of the two countries that would contribute to the objectives of improving safe nuclear operations in Russia and Ukraine: core conversion as a means to accomplish cessation of weapons-grade plutonium production in Russia; and establishment of indigenous fuel management capability in Ukraine.

7.4 Russia: Core Conversion to Cease Plutonium Production

Three of the oldest reactors operating in Russia are plutonium production reactors. Both the United States and Russia are motivated to eliminate plutonium production at those reactors. To do so will materially enhance the security of the United States, our Allies and friends. Conversion of the fuel core in these reactors to a design that eliminates weapons-grade plutonium production provides the technical means to accomplish this goal. Full funding to complete core conversion and eliminate plutonium production, at $80 million, constitutes U.S. taxpayer dollars well spent, from the security perspective alone. This is especially true considering that the Russians will contribute a like amount. In addition, the proposed core conversion project provides a bonus in improving safety at the production reactors without extending their operating lifetimes, and hence is consistent with U.S. nuclear safety objectives as well.

7.5 Ukraine: Indigenous Fuel Management Capability

Ukraine is committed to the continued development of nuclear power to fuel its economic welfare. As indicated before, Ukraine derives 37% of its electricity from nuclear power.16 Ukraine is unique among the leaders in nuclear power generating capacity, in that the country has no fuel fabrication capability. Ukraine imports all of its nuclear fuel from Russia. Ukraine has announced its intention to develop an indigenous fuel management capability.

Developing an indigenous fuel management capability could increase the safety of nuclear operations in Ukraine. At present, Ukraine lacks critical expertise to develop fuel design and performance specifications; conduct reload analyses that would enable Ukraine to optimize the energy utilization of the fuel it purchases; or evaluate the quality of fuel provided by the Russians. Problems encountered with the quality of fuel received from Russia have resulted in derating of the Zaporizhzhya plant. Better understanding of fuel fabrication, quality assurance, and fuel performance limitations would allow Ukraine to optimize fuel performance and reduce the risks associated with operating nuclear plants under conditions at -- or exceeding -- fuel design standards.

In addition, while Russia enjoys abundant fossil fuels which it exports for capital, Ukraine must import the fossil fuel it uses. Greater reliance on fossil fuel increases the economic burden on Ukraine and puts the nation in greater strategic disadvantage with respect to independence from Russia. One consequence of developing an indigenous nuclear fuel management capability is that it would enable Ukraine to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, and thereby the burden related to its balance of payments with Russia. Benefits could still accrue to Ukraine from developing this capability, even if Ukraine did not manufacture its own fuel. As an intelligent consumer of nuclear fuel, Ukraine could more readily diversify its cadre of fuel suppliers which would provide another mechanism to reduce its dependence on a single source of fuel.

8.0 Conclusions

Ukraine and Russia are making demonstrable progress as outlined in this report in improving the safety of the operations at their nuclear power plants, thanks in large part to cooperation with the United States and other nations.

Reducing the risks associated with the operation of these nuclear reactors is very much in the national interest of the United States. A major accident at any of these reactors threatens currently fragile democracies with potential economic, political, social, and environmental devastation. Any catastrophe would have consequences well beyond the immediate plant site -- including a direct negative impact on nuclear power generation in the United States, the potential for environmental hazard, possible impact on growing U.S. investments in Eastern Europe, and the need for an influx of international aid and assistance in the aftermath of the incident. Since each of these consequences is potentially destabilizing to U.S. interests, reducing the risk of such an accident protects the economic and national security of the United States.

The program of cooperation being provided by the United States - together with that of other international partners - is helping to improve safety by reducing existing, immediate risks; by transferring technology that will enable these countries to sustain their progress towards safe nuclear plant operations; and finally, by helping to build an independent, self-sustaining safety-conscious culture and infrastructure. Continuation of this program of cooperation, balancing expediency in action with strategic planning, provides a solid foundation for achieving safe nuclear operations in these two countries. Though much progress has been made, much work remains at each stage: reducing the risk of accidents in the near-term, through technology transfer and training; developing indigenous safety assessment capability; achieving a self-sustaining safety culture and infrastructure; and cultivating conditions to facilitate closure of unsafe reactors.

9.0 References

1 source Book: Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plants in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Armenia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, Fourth Edition, Nuclear Energy Institute, 1996.

2 The Safety of WWER and RBMK Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA-TECDOC-773, November 1994; Safety Improvements of WWER 440/230 Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA Report WWER-SC-107, May 31, 1995; Ranking of Safety Issues for WWER-440 Model 230 Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA-TECDOC-640, February 1992; Technical Basis for Instrumentation and Control Design Improvements in WWER-440/230 Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA-EBP-WWER-02, January 1996; Guidelines for I&C Design Improvements in VVER-440/230 NPPs, VVER-SC-099, 1994; Safety Issues and Their Ranking for WWER-440 Model 213 Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA-EBP-WWER-03, April 1996; Safety Assessment of Unit 5 (VVER-440/213) of the Greifswald Nuclear Power Station, GRS-92, February 1992; Safety Issues and Their Ranking for WWER-1000 Model 320 Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA-EBP-WWER-05, March 1996; Ranking of Safety Issues for WWER-1000 Model 320 Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA Report WWER-SC-104, April 21, 1995; RBMK Nuclear Power Plants: Generic Safety Issues, IAEA-EBP-RBMK-04, May 1996; Revision and Update of the IAEA Report on Prioritization of Safety Improvements of RBMK NPPS (RBMK-SC-011), IAEA Report RBMK-SC-020, May 18, 1995.

3 source Book: Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plants in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Armenia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, Fourth Edition, Nuclear Energy Institute, 1996.

4 ibid.

5 source Book: Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plants in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Armenia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, Fourth Edition, Nuclear Energy Institute, 1996.

6 closing Chornobyl and Revitalizing Ukraine's Power Sector, Fact Sheet on the G-7 Memorandum of Understanding.

7 ibid.

8 source Book: Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plants in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Armenia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, Fourth Edition, Nuclear Energy Institute, 1996.

9 new United States Government Initiatives Announced at the Lisbon Conference on Assistance to the New Independent States, U.S. Department of State, May 23, 1992.

10 improving the Safety of Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plants, International Nuclear Safety Program, Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Energy, Status Report, March 1996.

11 new United States Government Initiatives Announced at the Lisbon Conference on Assistance to the New Independent States, U.S. Department of State, May 23, 1992.

12 communique of the G-7 Meeting, Munich, 1992, distributed by the German Bundespresseamt, July 18, 1992.

13 source Book: Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plants in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Armenia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, Fourth Edition, Nuclear Energy Institute, 1996.

14 closing Chornobyl and Revitalizing Ukraine's Power Sector, Fact Sheet on the G-7 Memorandum of Understanding.

15 agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Ukraine Concerning Operational Safety Enhancements, Risk Reduction Measures and Nuclear Safety Regulation for Civil Nuclear Facilities in Ukraine, Kyiv, October 23, 1993.

16 agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation Concerning Operational Safety Enhancements, Risk Reduction Measures and Nuclear Safety Regulation for Civil Nuclear Facilities in the Russian Federation, Moscow, December 16, 1993.

17 source Book: Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plants in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Armenia, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, Fourth Edition, Nuclear Energy Institute, 1996.


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