On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster, Russian military television station Zvezda (Star) aired a story suggesting that Ukraine was on the verge of a second nuclear catastrophe. Ukraine’s is increasing its use of American nuclear fuel for powering its atomic plants while phasing out previous cooperation with Russia in this area. Zvezda journalist Dmitri Sergeyev claims that American nuclear fuel is not suitable for Soviet style reactors and can cause accidents that will be much worse than Chornobyl.
The story is presented in an accusatory manner, implying that Ukraine is carelessly endangering the entire planet: “On the verge of catastrophe: Why is Ukraine preparing a second Chornobyl for the world?” demands the Zvezda headline.
“The nuclear energy process has become politicized,” writes Sergeyev “and that is why Ukraine is phasing out its earlier contacts with Russian nuclear scientists”.
However, according to Ukraine’s State Statistics Service, only a fraction of Ukraine’s nuclear fuel comes from the US, in 2015 Ukraine purchased 95% of its nuclear fuel from Russia, in 2014, 94%.
Sergeyev cites experts who claim that American nuclear fuel is inappropriate for Ukrainian reactors, but names only one, Igor Mikheyev, who is identified as a Russian nuclear energy specialist.
A very basic Google search yields several radical pro-Kremlin sites which feature Mikheyev along with the Anti-Maidan group on the Russian social media site Vkontakte, where Mikheyev posts regularly.
Another expert cited in the Zvezda story is German author Marco Maier, co-publisher and editor-in-chief of Contra Magazin, a topic of several StopFake stories. Maier writes that a possible nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia atomic plant located close to the Donbas region would be convenient for Ukrainian authorities as they could blame the pro-Russian separatists for the mishap. He also claims that using American nuclear fuel is a “dangerous game”.
Last autumn Ukraine froze plans to build a nuclear fuel enrichment plant in partnership with a Russian company, explaining that Russia had not adhered to the conditions of the contract. Zvezda claims that this decision was politically motivated.
Zvezda also brings up an accident that allegedly took place at the South Ukrainian nuclear power plant during American fuel tests conducted there in 2012 as proof of the dangers of American nuclear fuel. However neither the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry nor the Energy Ministry has any record of this accident. There is also no record of US produced enriched fuel causing any mishaps.
Why and how American produced nuclear fuel will lead to a nuclear accident is never explained.