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Important Note: This website contains historical data from the INSP project. As of 2004 the site is no longer maintained and certain sections do not work correctly.

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Reducing Risks as Reactors Continue to Operate

Ignalina nuclear power plant
Two RBMK 1500 reactors at Ignalina nuclear power plant produced about 82 percent of the electric power generated in Lithuania. The United States supports efforts to improve safety at the plant and reduce risks, until Lithuania can develop alternative power sources.

Western safety specialists have encouraged the host-country governments to shut down the most unsafe reactors. However, most will continue to operate for the foreseeable future.

The reactors provide urgently needed electrical power, with averages ranging from 14 percent of Russia's power supply to 47 percent of Ukraine's and 82 percent of Lithuania's. The international community is encouraging the development of alternative power sources, but the transition would take significant time and money, which the host countries can ill afford.

Abrupt closure of nuclear power plants would carry a high cost in human terms--the loss of thousands of jobs and an increase in electricity prices. These socioeconomic changes could have drastic consequences in fragile democracies that already are struggling to stabilize their economies.

The only economically viable solution is to work with the host countries to reduce the risk of accidents until they can shut down reactors or bring them into compliance with international practices.

Activities to Reduce Risk and Improve Safety

Since the inception of these efforts in 1992, U.S. specialists have initiated more than 150 joint projects. Many projects reduced risks immediately by decreasing the possibilities of equipment malfunction and operator error.

Projects are organized into six areas, which are referred to as work elements.

  • Management and operational safety projects increase the safety of day-to-day operations by training operators, establishing safe operating procedures, and supplying up-to-date maintenance technology and training.

  • Engineering and technology projects reduce operating risks by upgrading the safety equipment and systems of nuclear power plants. Projects are focused on improvements in fire safety, radiation confinement, and reactor safety systems.

  • Plant safety assessment projects improve the abilities of designers, operators, and regulators to evaluate the safety of their plants through the use of internationally accepted methodologies and computer analysis codes.

  • Fuel cycle safety projects improve the handling and storing of reactor fuel and the operation of nuclear-fuel-cycle facilities.

  • Nuclear safety legislative and regulatory framework projects address the need for effective regulatory systems in countries with Soviet-designed reactors.

  • Chornobyl initiatives involve three major efforts:

    • support of an international effort to prevent collapse of the shelter around Chornobyl's ruined reactor Unit 4, suppress the radioactive dust inside the shelter, and protect shelter workers from radioactive and industrial hazards

    • development of technical strategies for shutting down and deactivating the Chornobyl plant and constructing a new heating plant to maintain safety systems when deactivation begins

    • establishment of an international research laboratory center in the city of Slavutych, near the Chornobyl site, and a related center in Kyiv.

Slavutych Laboratory
Chornobyl initiatives include establishing the International Chornobyl Center and the Slavutych Laboratory for International Research and Technology -- a milestone in Ukraine's effort to build in-country expertise in safe nuclear power plant operations.

SummaryKey Accomplishments
IntroductionPerformace Measurement
and Future Directions
Historical Issues and Reactor TypesTimeline
Reducing RisksContacts

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