Authorities Restart Second Reactor At Chernobyl
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ Workers restarted a second reactor at the damaged Chernobyl nuclear plant on Sunday, calculating that Ukraine’s need for energy outweighs danger at the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Oleksander Karasiuk, a spokesman for the Pripyat Scientific-Technical Center, which administers the plant, said that one of two generators at reactor No. 1 went on line Sunday morning.
One generator was operating at a low level, he said, and a second was to go on line within 24 hours.
The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl has been the subject of controversy between Ukrainian energy authorities, who want to keep the plant running, and environmental groups and Western governments, which say it is dangerous and must be shut down.
″All in all, the situation is really alarming,″ said Gabi Wiener, who visited Chernobyl last week as part of a 12-member international delegation from the environmental group Greenpeace.
″Chernobyl must be shut down immediately,″ she told reporters Sunday.
Ukrainian officials estimate that nuclear power provides 40 percent of the country’s electricity needs in winter. They say nuclear power has become even more important since Russia reduced supplies of cheap oil and gas earlier this year.
The Ukrainian parliament voted in October 1991 to shut down Chernobyl altogether by the end of 1993. However, environmentalists fear Ukraine’s strong nuclear lobby will press to keep the plant open, as well as lift the moratorium on completion of five other reactors under construction.
The 1986 explosion at reactor No. 4 in Chernobyl shocked the world and drew attention to the unsafe design of Soviet-made RBMK reactors, which remain in operation across the former Soviet Union.
At least 32 people have died and tens of thousands have been forced to leave their homes in contaminated areas because of the Chernobyl disaster. Ukrainian authorities say that 6,000 to 8,000 people have died of cancer and other radiation-related illnesses, and that 15,000 have diseases associated with radiation.
The activation of reactor No. 1 follows the re-starting of reactor No. 3, now operating at full capacity. Reactor No. 3 came on line on Oct. 20, but only after two false starts and repairs.
Reactor No. 2 has been out of commission since a fire damaged the machine room in 1991, although there are plans for it to operate again.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities have yet to determine what to do about fixing the sarcophagus that covers the remnants of reactor No. 4 to prevent radiation from leaking.
Roger Spautz, the executive director of Greenpeace-Luxembourg, said the group found that the sarcophaghus still had huge holes, despite repairs.
The Ukrainian government is considering more than a dozen bids from Ukrainian and foreign companies to redo the sarcophagus.