Archive for May 1st, 2010


Going nuclear……..Chernobyl II?

May 1, 2010

Well dear readers, as some will know, amongst the myriad of useless qualifications I hold is Radiation Protection Supervisor from my days at Sellafield.  The course and qualification granted by RWE Nukem a German company…….which is quite ironic considering what is to follow.

It appears that Westinghouse, a company that supplies nuclear fuel to Ukraine, has dropped the ball……which is unfortunate in a country in which Chernobyl is located.

It seems a document dated in February, has surfaced on the internet, that has subsequently been authenticated as genuine, that would indicate doubts among experts over the safety of the nuclear fuel supplied to Ukraine by Westinghouse……..or more accurately the fuel assemblies. 

The document is written in German (unsurprisingly) but has confirmed as authentic by those which wrote it.  Those who write it work for a well known German organisation called TUEV that deal ostensively with  technical certification.

Those within TUEV state that the Westinghouse fuel assemblies have not been proven fit for use in a nuclear power plant in Mykolayiv in southern Ukraine.  Let us hope those fuel assemblies have not been commissioned and are now functional.

Energoatom (Ukraine) have said these assemblies have already been fitted…….but nothing about any commissioning or whether they are actually in use today…….although they were due to go live in April.

Obviously Russia is one of the world’s leading nuclear nations and one which Ukraine has relied upon… many nations……for nuclear fuel and disposal of nuclear waste.  However Ukraine has been looking for alternative sources to diversify the supply chain……well you never know what will happen in the future and being tied to one supplier has its risks. 

Seemingly though, you don’t know what you are going to get when not dealing with a trusted supplier!

Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors, so you would think when a market share is being opened to you, a less cavalier attitude would prevail with a new client.  Obviously not……..and welcome to doing business with the nuclear industry in the West.  It is hardly surprising the Western nations are turning to Russia for civil nuclear issues……maybe Ukraine would be wise to keep the supplier they have? 

Anyway, going back to this TUEV document, it basically tells Ukraine the fuel assemblies should not be used without further testing……it seems Energoatom would disagree with that assessment as they are already fitted…….but who knows if they have been commissioned and are working or not.

The TUEV document states, “The statement that Westinghouse specialists have done this sort of work before is not sufficient to prove that requirements for nuclear and radioactive safety have been met.

On the basis of the materials presented, it is indeed quite difficult to draw the conclusion that the use of the TVSW (Westinghouse fuel assemblies) in the third reactor of the south Ukraine nuclear power plant is safe.”

So what is wrong with the new fuel assemblies?

Quite simply the fuel assemblies tested are not the same design as those fitted in the Ukrainian reactor.

A little like showing the ingredients for raspberry jam and then serving strawberry jam, thus making, as they rightly point out “the link between the material presented, and proving the nuclear-radioactive safety is not always obvious and understandable.”

There are also very worrying citicisms about the complete lack of use relating to modern 3-D modeling relating to the heat exchange in the reactor core and a notable absence of missing or inaccurate documentation.  Therefore whilst it may be safe…….practically, it impossible to assess compliance with current nuclear safety standards……so it may not be safe also!!

It seems a Westinghouse initially stated the TUEV concernes were outdated, but confirmed they would appraise the matter.  Now isn’t that reassuring……..particularly given a small incident in the Czech Republic where Westinghouse managed to contimainate cooling water at a nuclear plant called Temelin?

Now Ukraine has already been the host nation to the worlds most infamous (but not only) civilian nuclear energy incident…….namely Chernobyl……which the world is still paying for with regards to reactor containment and decomissioning.

It would be an absolutely undeniable catastrophy if this matter is not investigated swiftly by not only the Energy Minsitry of Ukraine but also the international nuclear bodies, Westinghouse themselves and also the United States where Westinghouse corporate HQ is based.

There is no point in President Obama asking President Yanukovych to give Westinghouse a 4 year contract to supply Ukraine, if Westinghouse are going to irradiate half of Ukraine with dodgey fuel assemblies, backed up by missing and inadequate data that does not correspond to what they are fitting in the first place.

Someone needs to get a grip of this……..and quickly before Chernobyl II becomes a reality.

Yes, OK, Chernobyl II is an overstatement…….but nevertheless, an additional nuclear accident Ukraine can do without!

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