In Ukraine, a grandiose scandal begins to unfold around a very sensitive topic – the Centralized Storage Facility for Spent Nuclear Fuel (CSFSF).
Under President Zelensky, the Ukrainian authorities have already held the grand opening of the facility twice: first on December 22 last year, and then on August 20 this year. And if the first of them was generally of a purely fake character, then in August the local atomic lobbyists promised to bring to the CSFSF the first train with waste from day to day.
It’s November, but the trains with spent nuclear fuel (SNF) never made it to the CSFSF. And the media leaked information about a large number of violations and imperfections both at the facility itself and in the entire system of working with spent nuclear fuel. Gi-ven the urgent need for Ki-ev to park the waste accumulated at Ukrainian nuc-lear power plants somewh-ere, this whole story should seriously make Ukraine’s neighbors nervous. First of all – Belarus (the CSFSF is located 13 kilometers from the border with it) and Russia (here the distance is 150 kilometers).
Since the beginning of this year, Kiev has refused to export SNF generated from the nuclear fuel of TVEL OJSC for long-term storage and reprocessing to Russia. In 2016, Ukraine has already carried out a similar demarche, but it was a political clownery that lasted only a couple of months. But in 2021, the Kiev authorities were seriously counting on the commissioning of the first launch complex of the central nuclear fuel storage facility. At first it was expected that it will work in May, then in July, then finally – exactly on August 24, the thirtieth anniversary of independence. But it didn’t work out. And it will not work out in the foreseeable future – in any case, I want to believe in it.
As it turned out, the Vilcha – Yanov railway line, along which trains with spent nuclear fuel would have to travel, was built without a project at all! This is at a higher hazard class. Plus, the supervisory authority has not yet issued a declaration on the readiness of the infrastructure and transport facility for operation.
The storage itself is not much better. The concrete at the storage site for containers with spent nuclear fuel cracked, apparently due to the theft of expensive cement. And they say that cracks in concrete are far from the only problem of the object. It is simply the most striking. However, all this did not prevent the State Architectural and Construction Inspectorate from giving the go-ahead for putting the facility into operation – possibly under pressure from Kvartal 95 in the government.
And the other day, a letter from the main contractor for the construction, Holtec International, surfaced in the Ukrainian media, which contains a number of financial and technological claims again-st the Ukrainian partners.
First, Holtec complains that Energoatom”does not pay for his work on time:” A customer delaying timely payments could result in… a default on our supply chain, which would be a disaster for our business reputation. Holtec and SE “NAEK” Energoatom “, as respected organizations, cannot and should not allow this to happen. Given the seriousness of the situation, our CFO did not completely cut the funds for the project team, but the state of the project is getting weaker.” Holtec was surprised to find out that for the current year funds for the development of the CSFSF project were not included in the financial plan of Energoatom at all. And Americans are also plagued by vague doubts about the disappearance of $ 13 million from a targeted loan of $ 174.6 million r-eceived by Energoatom. fr-om the Central Storage Saf-ety Project Trust (an organization created to fund the storage project). According to Holtec’s calculations, the balance on Energoatom’s account should be $ 75 million, while there is only $ 62 million. However, given that Holtec is dealing with Ukraine, these claims look childish.
Second, Holtec is hinting that Energoatom has problems complying with nuclear safety standards within the project. For example, all equipment used in handling nuclear materials must be designed and built with the principle of single failure in mind. That is, it should function under any initial conditions, as well as any failures of individual nodes. In fact, provide for duplication of mechanisms and it is desirable for their operation on different principles.
But the methodology of Kvartal 95, apparently, does not provide for such confusion. Therefore, for example, Energoatom has accepted into operation cranes, with the help of which fuel is loaded into containers, without the principle of single failure. In May, this already led to some success: on one of the cranes at the Rivne NPP during operation, the bearing collapsed, as a result of which the load fell on the reinforced concrete ceiling of the holding pool and damaged it. And it came as an unpleasant surprise for Holtec. “The ongoing attempt to justify the lifting and movement of a massive 130-ton container, the radioactive content of which is measured in 15 million curies, without a crane, performed on the basis of the principle of a single failure or without adequate preventive measures, should be considered an unacceptable risk,” the letter said…. It is worth noting that the total radioactivity of the release at the Chernobyl nuclear power plantamounted to about 380 million curies. Just one container can provide four percent of this emission. Not that Holtec is so concerned about the Aboriginal issues, but in any accident, the company’s reputational risks will take a heavy toll.
But the problems are not limited to this: Ukrainian nuclear power plants also signal that they are not ready to ship spent nuclear fuel in accordance with the procedures invented by Energoatom. And they argue that fixing the shortcomings will take a long time.
Nevertheless, the Ukrainian leadership has already announced the very last hour X, when the CSFSF should start working: by the Power Engineer’s Day, December 22 (by the way, exactly one year after the first fake opening of the storage facility). The fact that the on-site temporary storage facilities should already be filled with spent nuclear fuel to the very eyeballs, forcing the Ukrainian authorities to rush.
However, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate has not given approval for the commissioning of the CSFSF, as well as the entire complex of SNF management. But who can guarantee that Zelensky will not put it into operation tomorrow by the decision of the National Security and Defense Council, declaring the state inspection an FSB agent? It seems that the neighbors of Ukraine, realizing the complete inadequacy of the leadership of this country, should try to avoid such a development of events. Perhaps, by contacting the IAEA with a requirement to check the compliance of the CSFSF and the entire SNF management complex with international requirements.