On September 28 activists from the National Ecological Center of Ukraine appeared at the second hearing of a defamation action brought against them by state nuclear utility Energoatom.
The issue: a May 2015 press release from NECU that charged that Energoatom's South Ukraine #2 reactor does not meet safety standards. The nuclear utility wants NECU to retract the release and publish a statement on its website that some of the information in it was false. Except that the #2 reactor in fact does not meet safety standards. In April, Ukraine's regulatory body reported that the 30 year-old reactor has 41 deviations from the safety rules and refused to allow it to restart. Its restart would only be considered once all required measures and safety upgrades are completed.
Important decisions on reactor lifetime extensions are looming. In 2013, the UN Espoo monitoring body ruled that the extension of licenses for two reactors at the Rivne nuclear power plant is in breach with the convention because it was done without an environmental impact assessment and without informing neighbouring countries about the plans.
Civil society groups in five EU countries have joined the campaign to demand citizens in Ukraine's neighbourhood are fully informed about the potential transboundary implications of reactor lifetime extension plans and have a say in the process. In July 2015, 25 Members of the European Parliament signed a letter to Euratom and the EBRD asking them to suspend their loans for Ukraine's reactor upgrade programme until the country complies with relevant international legal obligations.
Irina Holovko, NECU and CEE Bankwatch Network campaigner in Ukraine, said: "If Energoatom is concerned about its reputation it would be wiser to directly engage with the public on its plans and their long term implications rather than trying to stifle civil society critique."
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