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.


Presidential candidate Prabowo among Indonesian VIPs attending Saudi national day

Updated 28 min 33 sec ago
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Presidential candidate Prabowo among Indonesian VIPs attending Saudi national day

JAKARTA: The Saudi Arabia's Embassy in Jakarta celebrated the country’s 88th National Day on Monday evening with presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto among the public figures attending the reception at a hotel in Jakarta.
Prabowo was flanked by his deputy in the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and Deputy House Speaker Fadli Zon, who shared the VIP table with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignatius Jonan, ICT Minister Rudiantara and Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia, Osama bin Mohammed Abdullah Al Shuaibi. The son of Indonesia’s 6th president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, who is part of Prabowo’s campaign team, was also spotted in the VIP crowd.
The playing of national anthems of both countries and a brief Qur’an recital marked the start of the reception.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Jonan thanked King Salman and the people of Saudi Arabia for facilitating the speedy welcome of 203,351 Indonesian pilgrims who performed the Hajj this year and for sending a big contingent to participate in the 18th Asian Games which was held in Jakarta and Palembang last month.
“On this joyous occassion, we would like to appreciate the remarkable achievements on the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Indonesia, and the continuing efforts to increase the relations in various sectors that will benefit both countries’ interests,” the ambassador said in his speech.
He added that the historic visit of King Salman on March 2017 has resulted in the signing of 11 memorandum of understanding in different sectors that contributed to the increased relations between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
The VIPs were then invited to the stage to jointly cut the cake and took part in the sword dance.
Prabowo, who is running his presidential bid for the second time against incumbent President Joko Widodo in next year’s elections, told journalists that it is very important to maintain relations between the two countries.
“Prabowo is always invited to Saudi National Day and he always attends. We congratulate the kingdom for the national day celebration. We have a very strong emotional connection with Saudi Arabia,” Fadli told Arab News.
“I congratulate the kingdom, the government and the people of Saudi Arabia for the national day celebration. We have a very strong connection not just in the context of Hajj and umrah but also in other contexts. Last month I met my Saudi counterpart in a G20 meeting in Argentina and we talked about how to develop digital economy between the two countries,” Rudiantara told Arab News.