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.


Anti-India clashes, gunbattle erupt in Kashmir’s main city

Updated 17 October 2018
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Anti-India clashes, gunbattle erupt in Kashmir’s main city

  • The exchange of gunfire lasted for about half an hour
  • Police refused to give any information about casualties on either side

SRINAGAR, India: Anti-India protests and clashes erupted in the main city of disputed Kashmir on Wednesday shortly after a gunbattle raged between militants and government forces.
The gunbattle began early Wednesday after troops cordoned off a neighborhood in Srinagar on a tip that some rebels were present in a civilian home, police said. The exchange of gunfire lasted for about half an hour, police said but refused to give any information about casualties on either side.
Residents said they also heard loud explosions during the fighting.
As the news of the fighting spread, anti-India protests and clashes erupted in several places in downtown Srinagar. Demonstrators tried to reach the site of the standoff and threw stones at police and paramilitary soldiers in solidarity with rebels.
Government forces fired tear gas to stop the protesters. There were no reports of injuries.
Authorities limited communications, including Internet on mobile phones, as is routine during such fighting to make organizing anti-India protests difficult.
Clashes between government troops and residents had occurred during the day Tuesday during the last phase of local council elections that had low turnout in Muslim-dominated areas. Separatists and armed rebel groups had called for a boycott, viewing the polls as an illegitimate exercise under military occupation.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.