(October 15, 2002) Amidst a heated political climate, where thousands have gathered in anti-presidential protests over the last few weeks, officials of the state-run nuclear monopoly Energoatom are being accused of misappropriation of funds, falsification of documents, and criminal negligence. In addition, a coalition of individuals and groups has sued the government over its plans to build new reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnitsky nuclear power plants, also known as K2R4.
(575.5449) WISE Ukraine - Ukraine's nuclear safety record has been undermined by new allegations of falsification of documents. Authorities are investigating several nuclear plant workers in western Ukraine for allegedly using fake diplomas to get high-paying jobs, according to the head prosecutor's office in the Rivne region(1).
In an investigation with an organized crime bureau in the Rivne Ministry of Internal Affairs, investigators have discovered that more than ten workers of the Rivne nuclear power plant occupying the posts from the head of shift to the senior operator of the machine room have no university degree(2).
Energoatom has denied the allegations, claiming that nuclear engineers must go through a rigorous licensing process that includes special training, medical and psychological testing, and an examination. Only then, the agency says, may a licensee be certified to work in a nuclear plant(3).
However, according to a statement by the deputy prosecutor general for Rivne Vasyl Kundiuk in the newspaper Kievskie Vedemosti, workers bought fake diplomas between 1999-2001 for as much as US$600 from the Odessa National Polytechnics University, claiming that they were specialists in nuclear power and thermoelectric power stations(4).
Doubts about the workers' qualifications arose when officials investigated a number of reports of technical problems at the plant, Kundiuk also said. The workers held a variety of engineering and administrative positions, ranging from senior operator to shift boss(5).
The apparent motive for the workers' ruse was higher salaries. They earned UAH 6,000-8,000 (US$1,100-1,500) per month at the plant - more than 10 times the average wage in Ukraine(6).
Following the results of the inspection, the Prosecutor of the Rivne region, Nikolai Golomsha, started criminal proceedings on the case of deliberate use of false documents and criminal negligence.
Also, Energoatom has been hit recently with another criminal case. The General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine has brought a charges against officials of Energoatom for coordinating double payment for the supply of steam generators to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, according to the Director of the Department of Economic Law Lilia Nikolyenko.
According to one source, the preliminary damages caused by this deal made UAH 52 million (US$9.7 million), but the total expected damages are said to be almost UAH 200 million (US$37.4 million). Ms. Nikolyenko announced that this crime was committed in 1998(7).
In August the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine brought a separate criminal case against several former directors of Energoatom, who worked in the company during 1999-2001(8).
Meanwhile, NGOs continue to press Energoatom in court for environmental accountability and more public involvement in the K2R4 project. The NGO Public Committee for State Security faced Energoatom officials in a Kyiv district court on 7 October to ask for an injunction against the continued construction of K2R4. The committee believes that the construction of the power stations is illegal, as Energoatom has not received the approval of government environmental experts to go ahead with construction(9).
The judge promptly dismissed the appeal to stop K2R4 construction, without explanation. Public Committee lawyers have acknowledged this case is an uphill battle, where the result may already be determined in the mind of the judge.
The Public Committee also began reading a list of one hundred applicants who wish to join the lawsuit, which now includes ten non-governmental organizations from around Ukraine. One group, Green World, was barred from joining the suit, but court officials have refused to explain why. So far, the court has accepted only five individuals as plaintiffs in the suit.
The court has adjourned until 21 October, when more of the hundred litigants will attempt to join the suit through a painstaking process that involves reading out a lengthy application before the court.
Another group, Public Control, had a similar appeal for an injunction against K2R4 rejected on 16 August, when they argued in the same court that licenses were illegal because they were issued without satisfactory assessments from environmental, sanitation, and fire experts. They are currently waiting for a chance to appeal the decision(10).
In a bizarre, possibly unrelated incident, the vice-chair of Public Control, Ruslan Syniavskyi, was murdered outside his apartment in Kiev on October 1st. Reports claim that he was shot with four to six bullets at point-blank range(11).
Alexei Tolkachov, the chairperson of the Public Committee for State Security, has said that the murder of Ruslan Syniavskyi was probably unrelated to Syniavskyi's group's involvement in antinuclear work in Ukraine. Tolkachov told NIRS/WISE Ukraine that Syniavskyi, while being a leader of the environmental non-governmental organization Public Control, was not working on the group's legal campaign against the completion of K2R4.
The completion of K2R4 is now estimated to be 85% complete. Ukrainian law requires the court to order construction to stop pending review of the group's petition and a decision. However, court officials would not confirm whether a stop order has been issued, and Energoatom has denied that it had received any court order to stop construction resulting from the lawsuit(12).
In May, the Public Committee for State Security called on the Russian Duma to not finance the K2R4 project. Russia agreed to extend Ukraine US$45 million in credits to complete the reactors, but so far has failed to allocate any funds in their current budget. The cost of completion, based on estimates of Western experts, is as high as US$1.4 billion(13).
In a recent move, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) agreed to a number of concessions to Ukraine, including a lower overall loan price-tag and lower electricity rate increases for consumers. The EBRD is involved in financing 25% of Ukraine's energy-sector projects, which currently totals US$1.28 billion(14). The Ukrainian government had originally also asked the EBRD for a loan for the K2R4 project, but withdrew the application last year(15).
- Ukrainian News Service, Oct 7, 2002
- Kiev Post, October 10, 2002
- Ukrainian News Service, Oct 8, 2002
- Kiev Post, October 10, 2002
- UNIAN News Service, October 9, 2002
- Ibid., October 8, 2002
- Kiev Post, October 10, 2002
- Associated Press, August 23, 2002
- Associated Press, October 3, 2002
- Ukrainian News Service, August 17, 2002
- UNIAN News, May 22, 2002
- Ibid, September 10
- WISE News Communique 559.5345, "Ukraine withdraws EBRD loan application for K2/R4"
Source and contact: WISE Ukraine