Three decades after nuclear disaster, Chernobyl goes solar

Solar panels are seen in front of the New Safe Confinement arch covering the damaged fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, at a newly built solar power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine October 5, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 06 October 2018
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Three decades after nuclear disaster, Chernobyl goes solar

  • Built in a contaminated area, 3,800 panels produce energy to power 2,000 apartments
  • The 1-megawatt solar plant is a joint project by a Ukrainian and German company, costing around $1.2 mn

CHERNOBYL: Ukraine unveiled a solar plant in Chernobyl on Friday, just across from where a power station, now encased in a giant sarcophagus, caused the world's worst nuclear disaster three decades ago.
Built in a contaminated area, which remains largely uninhabitable and where visitors are accompanied by guides carrying radiation meters, 3,800 panels produce energy to power 2,000 apartments.
In April 1986, a botched test at reactor number 4 at the Soviet plant sent clouds of nuclear material billowing across Europe and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
Thirty-one plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the accident, mostly from acute radiation sickness.
Thousands more later succumbed to radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, although the total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate.
"It's not just another solar power plant," Evhen Variagin, the chief executive of Solar Chernobyl LLC, told reporters. "It's really hard to underestimate the symbolism of this particular project."
The one-megawatt solar plant is a joint project by Ukrainian company Rodina and Germany's Enerparc AG, costing around 1 million euros ($1.2 million) and benefiting from feed-in tariffs that guarantee a certain price for power.
It is the first time the site has produced power since 2000, when the nuclear plant was finally shut down. Valery Seyda, head of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, said it had looked like the site would never produce energy again.
"But now we are seeing a new sprout, still small, weak, producing power on this site and this is very joyful," he said.
Two years ago, a giant arch weighing 36,000 tonnes was pulled over the nuclear power station to create a casement to block radiation and allow the remains of the reactor to be dismantled safely.
It comes at a time of sharply increasing investment in renewables in Ukraine. Between January and September, more than 500 MW of renewable power capacity was added in the country, more than twice as much as in 2017, the government says.
Yulia Kovaliv, who heads the Office of the National Investment Council of Ukraine, said investors want to reap the benefits from a generous subsidy scheme before parliament is due to vote on scrapping it in July next year.
"Investors expect that in the renewable energy sector facilities launched before 2019 will operate on the current (beneficial) system of green tariffs," she told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Odessa in September.
"And that is why investors want to buy ready-to-build projects in order to complete construction before that time."


Oil bounces back, but markets remain fragile amid trade disputes

Updated 47 min 15 sec ago
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Oil bounces back, but markets remain fragile amid trade disputes

  • OPEC has led supply cuts since the start of the year aimed at tightening the market and propping up prices
  • US sanctions on Iran’s and Venezuela’s oil industries would likely further reduce crude exports from OPEC

SINGAPORE: Oil prices jumped more than 1 percent on Friday amid OPEC supply cuts and Middle East tensions, but still did not fully recoup losses earlier in the week on economic slowdown jitters and swelling inventories — their steepest drops since the start of the year.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $68.50 per barrel at 0231 GMT, up 74 cents, or 1.1 percent, from their last close.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 63 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $58.54 per barrel.
“Multiple supply risks remain, as tension continues between Iran and the US, which could turn disruptive,” ANZ bank said on Friday.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has led supply cuts since the start of the year aimed at tightening the market and propping up prices.
ANZ said US sanctions on Iran’s and Venezuela’s oil industries would likely further reduce crude exports from OPEC, of which both countries are members.
But Friday’s firmer prices could not make up the much bigger slumps from earlier in the week, which have put crude futures on track for their biggest weekly losses this year.
From mid-week, rising oil inventories in the United States started weighing on prices.
“Increasing (oil) inventories and slumping US manufacturing activity exacerbated trade related concerns about global demand,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Australia, said in a note, pulling WTI below $60 per barrel and Brent below $70 per barrel.
And the glut has spread beyond North America. Struggling to cope with oversupply from fuels, Asian refinery margins this week fell to their lowest seasonal levels since the financial crisis a decade ago, triggering plans for refinery run cuts.
“In China, gasoline stockpiles at seaports were seen rising to a multi-year high, this can shrink the margins for refiners and lead to softer oil demand from China,” ANZ bank said on Friday.
“Oil remains acutely vulnerable to any trade headlines, and with Asian currencies and stocks most likely to be dragged lower, any rallies may be short-lived,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior analyst at futures brokerage OANDA.
Asian shares were hobbled near four-month lows on Friday on worries the US-China trade spat was developing into a more entrenched strategic dispute between the world’s two largest economies.