UKRAINE: WHO WILL MANAGE CHERNOBYL?

Created: 12/26/1991

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Directorate of Intelligence1

Ukraine: Who Will Manage Chernobyl?

Summary

A pressing challenge for leaders in the newly independent Ukraine will be to reconcile the public to the fact that,the republic may now control its political destiny, ii will have to continue to defer to Russia on some economic and technical decisions. One such decision is the emotion-charged issue of the management of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant end the republic's overall nuclear energyIn the summerhe Ukrainian parliamentesolution asserting Kiev's right to exerciseauthority over atomic installations in the republic. In-deed,erious fire broke out at the Chernobylpowerew months later, Kiev took the lead

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in dealing with the incident, rather than allow Moscow to handle the political and physical fallout as it had during the Chernobyl disaster

Although the magnitude of this recent incident wasraction of the earlier one (no radiation washe fire waslose-call reminder that Ukraine by itself could not yet cope economically or technically with another serious accident, and lhat it might, therefore, beKiev to sever in the near future all ties to central nuclear authorities. Ir. signing the historic Commonwealth pact with Russia and Byelarus. Ukrainian leaders openly acknowledged thisby consentingeparate clause callingspecial agreement" on Chernobyl. We believe this clause will allow for Russian technical access to andof the plant while decontamination and containment operations continue, probably for years after the shutdown of the reactors, which is scheduledlHDk

llkraiac Tries lo Take Control

Ukraine has had dc facto jurisdiction over its nuclear powersince at leasthen the republic's parliament,to enormous political pressure stemming from the earlier Chernobyl accident, initiallylosure date5 for the Chernobyl atomic energy stationkraine has not yet ruled on the fate of four other nuclear power stations currently inbut it hasoratorium on new plant construction.

Republic leaders haveecisionroposal by the former USSR Ministry of Atomic Power and Industrythe Moscow-based government agency that previously owned orall nuclearwould enable central authorities to retain some operational control. The proposal acknowledges rcpub-

lie ownership of former MAPI nuclear plants but providesentralized agency to service and run the power stationsoint-stock state corporation. The arrangement would almost surely rankle Ukrainian sensitivities because it epitomizes the pervasive influence over the republic's nuclear sector exercised by Russia, where MAPI support facilities and know-how are concentrated. As the experience of the Baltic nations shows, that Influence will probably continue for some time: even Lithuania, which has achieved complete political independence, still relies on aof Russian personnel to run its Chernobyl-type reactor at Ig-nalirm.

The importance of these jurisdictional issues was illustrated in the accident tha: occurred on1 a: the Chernobyl AES. That evening, an electrical malfunction in an operating unit of the planterious fire, whicharge section of the roof to collapseain generator room. No radiation wasbecause Ukrainian firemen, who were the first on the scene, extinguished the blaze in about three hours. Had the fire gonehowever, it could have threatened the reactor itself, which would have required massive assistance that was beyond the repub-

Anticipating the political uproar this close call might generate, the republic government seized the lead by immediatelymember commission to investigate. Headed by veteranViktor Gladush, the team included government officials,engineers, public health officers, and experts from the Ukrainian Ecology and Nuclear Institutes. Ukrainians withexperience in nuclearfollowup issues from the Chernobyl accident fiveighly visible Ukrainian maioriry among those dealing with theof the fire fj| Jpft

Moscow Plays it Down-But Not Out

To minimize the public's perception of danger and to forestall charges of interference in republic affairs, the Moscow-based MAPIow profile in dealing with the accident. Nonetheless, it formed its own commission of inquiry and quietly seten-

ter at the AES to manage the fire cleanup. The 4YTaPI, which has monitored incidents at all nuclear power stations throughout thc former USSR,idlcvcl spokesman to issue informarjon buUetins to reassure thc public that there was no danger from*

Tbe Chernobyland Now

The October fire showed that some fundamental leadership and policy management changes have occurred since the

Authority to make technology-driven decisions that have strong political ramifications has shifted from central, industry-oriented organizations or individuals to local political bodies.he republic's leadership was powerless against the centra! nuclear bureaucracy. In1 the populace targeted theCouncil of Ministers and the parliament as thc authorities best able to take action.

The public is now demanding and getting honest answers. Unlike central authorities who tried toews blackout cn6 Chernobyl disaster. Ukrainian officialsullto the public of circumstances contributing to the October accident, and they kept citizens informed throughout regarding the extent of danger. The story broke internationallyew hours, and even thc cautious Moscow press reported it ontelevision the morning ofh.

environmentaliststrong and vocal political force. At the time of the catastrophehere was no active environmental movement, much less one with clout. People who are environmentally conscious are no longer on the outsidein; they often hold policymaking offices. Capitalizing on the publiciry surrounding the October fire, environmentalists secured the endorsement of officials from nearby West Europeanand neighboring Soviet republics and agitated fcr immediate closure of die station. Onctober the Ukrainian parliament vcted to shutdown thc stationnstead of phasing it out gradually..

WUling, But Able?

Much as Ukraine would like to decide tine future of its nuclearwithout having to consider its neighbors, we believe it islinked to them by economic and technical bonds.

Wby They Cannot Go It Alone

Numerous obstacles hinder Ukraine from gaining self-sufficiency in nuclear power or doing away with it altogether:

Constraints

Factors

of UkrainianIS AES generated.

Rematning ir.trgj towers artdigenous coal productionne-thirdndof Russian oil tend to rut in pnet).

Ukraine, in thtignificant tiporur of tttarlclty. has slashed tnergj tipcrts, and tht COusurj currentlyrenegotiating foreign contracts to bring hard currency earnings under republic consroi end to cushion against oil price hikes.

To meet near-term energy needs, republic leaders maj com* million three marly completed nuclear plants that had been put on hold.

Ukraine lacks the trained personnel, computtr codes, and essential design information touclear

Most scientists, engineers, andare Sorlet trained andin an industry culture biased ward ttntraliiauon of authority and txptrtlse.

Technical documentation Is inthe official language for AES

operations is Russian.

Ukraine has no significant nuclear manufacturing. Btcause its reactors are Russian built. Russia is thespare-parts supplier andintegrator.

Tasks such as data collection andon AES incidents and op-traiions are routed through Moscow. Tht top research institutes ore in Russia

Ukrainians would prefer to seek technics! assistance for theirindustry from the international community rather than from Moscow, and their chances of gening foreign help are good. West-em firms are eager to deal with the republic, especially if they can help stabilize its nuclear industry. Notwithstanding the West'sto provide assistance, however. Kiev faces serious financial constraints that limit its ability to pay for Western technology and equipment; the republic will therefore be forced to rely oneffectand knowhow for thefuture,

Ukrainian leaders must determine, therefore, how much interaction between the republic's nuclear industry and Moscow is politically palatable; one issue, for example, is whether the republic will join the joint-stock corporation proposed by MAPI. Ukrainianis essentia! for the plan to be workable because the republic is second only to Russia in its number of nuclear power plants. Local leaders may resist signing on. however, because cfpublic sentiment that Ukraine control its own industrial facilities. Moreover, republic leaden have expressed how liale they trust central authorities to run the nuclear power sector in the best commercial or environmental interests of Ukraine. Backing for the plan would most likely com: from the republic's nuclear industry workers and officials, who would probably judge this measure of central control andecessary evil to reduce the chancesevere nuclear accident or to cope with one. should it occur. Given these conflicting points of view, Ukrainian leaders will have toalancing act because joining themay provide their only access to the technical expertise they need until they develop their own nuclear infrastructure or obtain sufficient Western help.l

Outlook: Reluctant Partners

- 6

' i lit

Theecember Commcnwealth accord, signed by Ukraine, Russia, and Byclarus.eparaten dealing jointly with the continuing effects of6 Chernobyl disaster. Ukrainian leaders thereby implicitlythat, unassisted, they are unable to cope with the residual effects of that first accident. We believe the recent Chernobyl fire

tark rernindcr to them thai anotherid:r',rthe fledgling nation and could threaten itspolitical viability. We expect Ukrainian leadersrrangement into an ongoing gentlemen'svestigial central nuclear energy authorities tohreat. Wc believe the agreement will be onethe republic continues to work with existingas long as necessary (allowing for continued Russianand control) but keeps the collaboration as unpublicizedFor at lean the near term. Kiev must remainif

ilfers in the Aftermath of the Chernobyl Fire

Described below are the most prominent players associated with the October fire. Most are Ukrainian officials or public figures, but two Moscow MAPI officials who were responsible forthe power plant at thehe accident ci-Jr^Jj^r

The ranking Ukrainian official was State Minister for Industry. Transport, and Energyongtime partyhe was named chairman of thc republic commissionthe fire. Gladush had served since0 as headSSR Council of Ministers commission charged with taking the AES out of servicee had also coordinated regionalto previous emergency situations, including supervision cf Ukrainian assistance to victims of8 Armenian earthquake.

The Establishment

Gladush's depury on the investigation commission was Nikolay A. Sbteynberg, chairman of the Ukrainian State Committee forSafety since its establishment inhteynbcrg was assigned to the Chernobyl AES in the, but he left just before6 accident becauseersonality conflict with the plant director. When the disaster occurred, he returned to thc AES on his own initiative,osition of authority, and participated In early cleanup operations.onsequence, he was named deputy chairman of the USSR State Committee for Nuclearitle he held until assuming his current posi

The top MAPI official involved was Erik N. Pozdyshev. chairman of the Ministry's commission of inquiry into thc causes of Lhe fire and the measures needed for repair of thee was rhe MAPI deputy minister in charge of all AES maintenance, operations, and accident coordination. Pozdysbev knows thc Chernobyl station well; he was hs director from right after6 accidenthen he was named deputy minister. His MAPI colleague. Chernobyl AES chief engineer Nikolay A. Soroldn.

heads the center set up onctober to manage thc fire cleanup. Both men haveow-key response to the potentialof the fire, and both have stayed out of the spoUight focused on Ukrainian officials.^

The Greens

Environmental activists Yuriy N. Shcherbak andn the other hand, have been vocal critics of the Chernobyl AES. Shcherbak is Ukraine's Minister for Environmenta Issues and also chairman of Green World, the Ukrainiangroup thatarge role in eliciting public demands that the station be closed. Although Shcherbak concedes tha:imperatives will probably keep the Chernobyl AES on linehile longer, he has faulted Ukrainian power officials for failing to develop alternative energyhysician for more thanears, he treated Chernobyl accident victims. Shcherbakeries of articlesocumentary novel during theescribing the medical and environmental effects of the Chernobyl disaster. He said he felt compelled to unveil what he believed toassive propaganda coverup of Chernobyl'sShcherbak served as chairman cf me Nuclear Ecology Subcommittee of the USSR Supreme Soviet during

Yavcrivskiyell-known Ukrainian novelist and poet who has focused his writing7 on (he nuclear accident atHe was oneroup of literati who founded the intensely nationalistic People's Movement of the Ukraine forknown therend he later served as its chairman. He tried unsuccessfully to enter the Ukrainianrace, but he could not get the required number of signatures toandidate. Yavorivskiy is chairman of the UkrainianSoviet standing commission on Chernobyl accident issues, and following the recent fire, he agitated for an immediateof (he

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