Three decades after Chernobyl: are Ukraine’s nuclear plants safe now?
In the aftermath of the terrifying event, which spread radioactive emissions throughout the region, and following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the G7 nations expressed their concern about the remaining risks at Chernobyl NPP. The G7 asked the World Bank to lead a study of the feasibility and cost of closing the remaining high-risk Chernobyl-type reactors in six countries in the region, including Russia, and replacing them with alternative electricity capacity. We led this work in the Bank and recommended that these controversial reactors with inherently high safety risks should be closed by 2000 and the Chernobyl site enclosed with a permanent “sarchophagus”. We placed the extension and modernization of the rest of Ukraine’s nuclear industry in a broader context of power sector reforms, stressing the link between nuclear safety and utility finances, and the need for a strong nuclear safety culture. Safety risks stem not just from the Soviet-designed reactors, but from the institutional and political context in which they operate.