Subj: Weather blacks out Ukrainian nuclear power stations
Date: 11/28/00 9:18:05 AM Pacific Standard Time

11/28/2000 08:10:00 ET

Weather blacks out Ukrainian nuclear power stations
KIEV (Reuters) - Power lines downed by bad weather forced two more
Ukrainian nuclear power reactors to shut down automatically on Tuesday,
leaving millions without electricity and authorities warning of worse to
come. Ukraine relies on nuclear power for 50 percent of its electricity.
Only six out of 14 nuclear reactors were operational on Tuesday, a day
after line fault tripped the last reactor at Chernobyl, site of the
world's worst civil atomic disaster, off the grid, possibly forever.

Energy, or more often a lack of it, is Ukraine's hottest political
potato, but the latest mass power cuts have struck at a time when
foreign lenders have praised the country for progress in reforming the
sector, renowned for creaking infrastructure and murky financial
goings-on. "All shutdowns were linked to weather conditions," said
Olexander Maistrenko, spokesman for the atomic energy agency Enerhoatom.
He said there was no increase in radiation levels at any affected

Nuclear reactors cannot quickly adjust to changes in demand from the
national grid and are designed to shut themselves down if there is
nowhere for them to feed electricity. The government moved to calm fears
of a complete collapse of the system. "The energy system won't collapse
(due to spikes in demand), because whole regions are cut off due to the
weather," said a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko.
Maistrenko said reactor one of three at the South Ukraine nuclear power
plant shut down at 7:41 a.m. (0541 GMT) followed at 7:52 a.m. (0552 GMT)
by number three. The station is now completely shut down after its
number two reactor was put out of action on Monday by a leak from a
steam generator. Late on Monday, number six reactor at the southern
Zaporizhska nuclear power station switched off because of bad weather,
Maistrenko said. Of the station's six reactors, two were already out of
action for repairs, he said.


Driving rain, snow, ice and heavy winds have swept across Ukraine since
the weekend. In some regions, schools and businesses have closed and
many roads are completely iced over. According to the Emergencies
Ministry, power was severed to half of all homes in two western regions
and areas across the country were suffering blackouts.

A spokeswoman said they expected further cuts as weather deteriorated.
Andriy Dmytrenko, an energy sector analyst at brokerage Dragon Capital
in Kiev, said he thought traditional power stations would be able to
take up the generating slack until the nuclear reactors were working
again. "Higher thermal plant production was already expected because of
the (scheduled) Chernobyl shutdown and the generating companies have
been stockpiling coal," he said.

The automatic shutdown of the last functioning reactor at Chernobyl on
Monday, three weeks before it was due to be taken out of service for
good, served as a reminder of the decrepit state of Ukraine's
infrastructure. Chernobyl's number four reactor exploded in April 1986,
immediately killing at least 30 people, and sending a radioactive cloud
over Europe. Thousands are thought to have died since from the exposure
to radiation.

But Ukraine, saddled by gas debts of at least $1.4 billion to Russia,
says it can ill afford to forgo nuclear power. Western donors, to the
chagrin of environmentalists, have pledged cash to build replacement
reactors elsewhere once Chernobyl is permanently taken out of service on
December 15.