In 2016, the No. 1 tourist destination of Ukraine was the lifeless town of Pripyat, evacuated after the deadly reactor meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986. Today, Ukraine relies on nuclear power for 53 percent of its power generation, but is risking another nuclear accident on a scale greater than Europe — and the world — could imagine.
The problems facing Ukraine’s nuclear power industry are multi-faceted, but the main issue is the same one plaguing the whole of the former Soviet republic — corruption, which is breeding a lack of accountability and mismanagement of the sector’s critical infrastructure.
Ukraine’s nuclear power plants are supposed to be regulated by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU), which by law is an independent regulatory body. In recent years, however, it has become standard practice for the leaders of SNRIU to be appointed by the state nuclear power plant operator, Energoatom, instead of through a rigorous, independent selection process.
This, perversely, subjugates the regulator to the whims of the operator. If Energoatom cannot meet certain safety standards or deadlines, its bosses simply inform the regulator of such, and the deadlines are extended or eliminated, public safety be damned.
In addition, many positions at the regulatory body remain empty. For example, the position of the chief state inspector of nuclear and radiation safety has been vacant for three years. Other key posts of the Ukrainian nuclear regulator remain vacant.
It gets worse.