A second Chornobyl is brewing in Ukraine, the pro-Kremlin Ukraina.ru web newspaper announced last week. Ukraina.ru is part of the Russia Today state owned media holding company. In a lengthy article the publication claims that in order to spite Russia, Ukraine has built a new nuclear waste storage facility “right under Kyiv”. Instead of reclaiming the contaminated 30 kilometer Chornobyl exclusion zone, the Ukrainian authorities continue turning the country into a nuclear dumping ground, Ukraina.ru writes, blaming not only Ukraine for this, but also her Western partners.
“Ukraine used to send her nuclear waste to Russia for processing; now it is patriotically storing it on her native God-given land, in the vicinity of the capital. And only because western nuclear companies have an eye on this and seek to compete with Rosatom in the former USSR and at the same time use the nuclear waste repository for their own purposes” Ukraina.ru writes.
Rosatom, the State Atomic Energy Corporation is a Russian state corporation headquartered in Moscow that specializes in nuclear energy.
This story centers around a new nuclear waste processing that has begun operation in the Kyiv region, which according to Ukraina.ru is a new nuclear catastrophe in the making. The story contains the most common fake Kremlin narratives about Ukraine’s nuclear industry, the state of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the exclusion zone. Centering on claims of a new “nuclear burying ground” that threatens Ukraine with imminent nuclear disaster, the article mixes up unprocessed nuclear waste still present at the decommissioned Chornobyl plant with spent nuclear fuel from Ukraine’s working nuclear power plants.
A new facility has opened in the Chornobyl zone in July of last year, but it is not a nuclear waste repository, but rather a liquid radioactive waste processing plant.
The new plant only processes radioactive waste that was the result of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. The processing involves several stages of transformation, turning the liquid waste into solids through cementing, a process that is considered safer for storing nuclear waste. On September 5 the plant produced the first 120 bins of solid waste for disposal, all of which will be placed in a nearby solid nuclear waste storage facility guaranteeing 300 years of safe disposal. This “nuclear burying ground” as Ukraina.ru calls it, is not now, it began operating back in 2008.
Ukraina.ru further claims that the new treatment plant is crippling development of tourism in the Chornobyl exclusion zone as the plant contains dangerous radiation levels. This is yet another fake, as the processing plant is located in a restricted area where tourists are not allowed to enter. Through a presidential order issued by Petro Poroshenko in 2016 a Chornobyl Ecological Biosphere Reserve was created, it is this area that is open for tourism and not the restricted 10 kilometer zone around Chornobyl, according to the Reserve’s director Taras Melnychuk.
By commissioning its own nuclear waste treatment plant, Ukraine stopped sending its radioactive waste for processing to Russia on purpose so as to annoy the Kremlin, Ukraina.ru continues. The publication confuses two nuclear processing facilities, the Chornobyl processing facility which has been operating since 2008, and a new facility, the Centralized Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility being built in the exclusion zone.
As Ukraine had no central facility for storing spent nuclear fuel, it was forced to spend $200 million annually for transport and processing of its spent nuclear fuel in Russia.
According to the Joint convention on the Safety of Spent Radioactive Fuel Management, which Ukraine ratified in 2000, as of 2020 all nuclear waste must be stored on the territory of the state where it was produced.
The centralized storage facility under construction will solve the problem of spent nuclear fuel. Presently Ukraine is completely dependent on Russia for nuclear waste management, a vulnerable position that Russia can exploit at its whim. The project has been on again off again since 2000. In 2014 the design was finally approved and construction, begun in November 2017, is in its final stages.
In short, Ukraina.ru has created a new fake story based on a series of old fakes, essentially mixing apples and oranges. The publication has confused three different facilities, two of which are already operating and one that is near completion: a new plant for processing nuclear waste from the Chornobyl accident, a storage facility for the disposal of such waste which has been in operation since 2008 and a central nuclear waste storage facility for processing and disposal of nuclear waste from Ukraine’s existing atomic energy power plants.