Ukraine clings to nuclear power despite Chernobyl trauma

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visit the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in this April 26, 2017 photo, marking the 31st anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. (AP)
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A girl points at the names of Chernobyl victims at the monument erected in memory of those who died in the Chernobyl explosion, in Ukraine’s capital Kiev, on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 30 April 2017
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Ukraine clings to nuclear power despite Chernobyl trauma

KIEV: Ukraine is still suffering from the trauma of the world’s worst civil nuclear accident at Chernobyl but has nonetheless turned the hazardous fuel into the backbone of its energy portfolio.
The crisis-torn country now uses atomic power for more than half of its electricity needs as it struggles through a coal shortage sparked by a three-year war against Russian-backed insurgents in the separatist east.
And that figure shot up to nearly three-quarters of all power consumed during natural gas price disputes with its eastern arch foe and energy superpower Russia from 2014 to 2016.
Ukraine Wednesday marked 31 years since the disaster in which thousands died with the country extending the lifespan of its communist-era nuclear reactors and turning atomic power into a workhorse that will be around for generations to come.
The Chernobyl plant’s fourth reactor in the north of former Soviet Ukraine exploded in 1986 after a safety test went horribly wrong at 1:23 am on April 26. Some Ukrainians remain worried that a similar catastrophe could hit their country again.
“The main risk in using nuclear energy in Ukraine is associated with reactors that have exhausted their lifespans,” says Iryna Golovko of the National Ecological Center of Ukraine’s energy projects department.
“Today, six of Ukraine’s 15 operating reactors have surpassed their designed service lives,” she told AFP. “And by 2020, there will be 12 of them.”
Ukraine enjoys abundant coal reserves that happen to lie mostly in regions controlled by Russian insurgents.
Kiev spent nearly three years in the uncomfortable position of fighting the rebels while enriching them by buying their anthracite coal to keep its thermal power plants pumping.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko bowed to public pressure and banned all trade with the separatist east on March 15.
Energy Minister Igor Nasalyk said shortly after Poroshenko’s decision that nuclear power’s share of total electricity production had jumped to 62 from around 55 percent.
It had stood at 46 percent before Ukraine was riven by war and economic crises in 2013.
The government has since allowed regional power companies to impose blackouts in case of weather-related surges in demand.
Ukraine is also negotiating a coal purchase agreement with the US that Kiev hopes could fulfil two-thirds of its annual needs.


India ‘arrogant’ for canceling rare meeting: Pakistan’s Khan

Updated 33 min 43 sec ago
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India ‘arrogant’ for canceling rare meeting: Pakistan’s Khan

  • India pulled the plug on a meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart set for next week on the sidelines of a major UN conference, just one day after saying it would go ahead.
  • High-level talks between India and Pakistan are rare.

ISLAMABAD: India’s decision to cancel rare talks with Islamabad was disappointing and “arrogant,” Imran Khan said Saturday, one day after New Delhi accused Pakistan’s prime minister of harboring an “evil agenda.”
India pulled the plug on a meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart set for next week on the sidelines of a major UN conference, just one day after saying it would go ahead.
The foreign ministry in New Delhi blamed the about-face on recent actions that had revealed Pakistan’s “evil agenda” and the “true face” of Khan, who hit back on Twitter Saturday.
“Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” he wrote.
“However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”
New Delhi said it canceled the talks after the “latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities” and the recent release of a series of Pakistani postage stamps “glorifying a terrorist and terrorism.”
India did not specify which killings it was referring to in its statement, but earlier this week, an Indian border guard in the disputed territory of Kashmir was killed and his body mutilated.
Three policemen were then found dead on Friday after being abducted in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Pakistan also recently issued postage stamps of Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri militant commander killed by Indian troops in July 2016, whose death sparked a wave of violent protests in the territory.
India has long accused Pakistan of arming rebel groups in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both.
In a statement from its foreign office, Pakistan said Friday it had “nothing to do with” the deaths, accusing India of spreading “motivated and malicious propaganda.”
The meeting in New York between Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi — on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly debate — was only confirmed on Thursday.
It came after Khan wrote to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi calling for a resumption of talks between the nuclear-armed foes.
High-level talks between India and Pakistan are rare. Indian media described the meeting would have been the first in nearly three years.