K2R4 Nuclear Plant Opposition Leader Murdered in Kiev

 

October 3, 2002

 

KIEV, Ukraine A month ago a civic group filed a lawsuit against the Ukrainian government to stop construction of two nuclear power plants at Rivne and Khmelnytskyi, calling the projects illegal. On Tuesday its vice-Chairman was gunned down in Kiev.

 

An unidentified man shot and killed Ruslan Syniavskyi, 44, late Monday at the entrance of his apartment building in downtown Kiev, the Interior Ministry's department in the capital said. Police didn't provide other details.

 

The Interfax news agency said that the assailant shot several times in an attempt to rob Syniavsky. "It's very doubtful that an ordinary thief carries a gun," said Oleh Sadanets, a representative of Syniavskyi's Public Control organization. "We consider that this (killing) was linked to his activity in the organization... four shots cannot be a simple accident."

 

Syniavksy was the vice-Chairman of Public Control, a non-governmental, environmental organization. The group is suing the Ukrainian government in a Kiev district court demanding a halt to the plants' construction. The group claims that the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee broke the law by not conducting adequate public hearings before providing a license to the state nuclear company Energoatom to construct the new power stations.

 

A judge agreed in August to hear Public Control's case after the same court denied a lawsuit by six representatives of an environmental group against Energoatom, claiming completion of the nuclear plants posed an ecological threat to the country. Alexei Tolkachov, a law student who is the chairperson of the Kiev-based Public Committee for State Security a take-off of the Soviet-era KGB, or Committee for State Security led the unsuccessful lawsuit. (Correction: Actually, the lawsuit is being heard on October 7, 2002, in Kievs Perchersk District Court. Ed.)

 

Ukrainian law requires the court to order construction to stop pending review of the group's petition and a decision. Court officials would not confirm whether a stop order has been issued, and Energoatom has denied that it had received any court order to stop construction resulting from the lawsuit.

 

Soviet-designed reactors are currently operating at Rivne and Khmelnytskyi and the disputed new reactors are about 85% complete. Ukraine negotiated to build the new reactors to compensate for the electricity lost when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was closed in 2000.

 

Currently, Ukraine operates four nuclear power plants with 13 reactors, nine of which are now working. The reactors are frequently shut down for malfunctions or scheduled repairs.

K2R4 Loan Hurdles

On 13 December 2000 the European Commission approved a Euratom loan of US$585 million for the Khmelnytskyi and Rivne plant expansions, subject to the confirmation by the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) of the effectiveness of their 7 December 2000 decision on a US$215 million loan for the same project. As all conditions were fulfilled, the EBRD and the Commission decision was ready to be confirmed and the loans were to be granted in early December 2001.

But on 28 November 2001, some days before signing the contracts with the EBRD and European Commission, the Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh requested additional discussions on certain loan conditions that Ukraine considered unachievable, and consequently refused to sign the EBRD loan contract.

At the request of Ukraine, a joint Working Group (WG) was established to explore solutions that would address the issues of their concern and render the project acceptable. The WG met biweekly until early February 2002 to discuss project cost, the Project Financing Plan, electricity tariffs, the Decommissioning Fund and nuclear liabilities and insurance. Substantial work remains to be done before a solution is fully defined.

One of the conditions which the EBRD required is an immediate hike in electricity rates, which would have meant a 30% rise in consumer rates. The issue of increasing electricity rates played an important role in the move on 28 November 2001 not to sign the contract. To agree to such an increase at that moment was impossible in the run-up to national elections scheduled for March 2002. According to Prime Minister Kinakh, the negotiations in the WG had led to agreement on reduction of the project costs and on mitigation of the bank's requirement for increasing electricity rates. The required hike in electricity rates could be smaller if the total project costs could be lowered.

Assuming the project is satisfactorily adjusted at technical level by the WG, it will have to be re-approved by all parties, a process that will require full political support. In any case, a decision is not expected until after the Ukrainian parliamentary elections of March. Currently, due to parliamentary disagreements and presidential scandals it is expected that agreements will not be announced until much later this fall.

 

Sources: Associated Press, and the online magazine Korrespondent, and CEE Bankwatch

For more information, contact NIRS WISE Ukraine at akul@svitonline.com or see our website at http://nonukes.narod.ru

 

 

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