"In the future, Ukraine will have no nuclear power industry, because it can neither build nor maintain nuclear power plants. As soon as the existing stations exhaust their resources, the country's nuclear power will be gone," political analyst Rostislav Ishchenko said.
Ukrainian nuclear energy, according to the expert, stands a good chance to collapse. Negative trends have been observed for a long time, Ishchenko reminds. Even back in the relatively prosperous 2012, there was one lamppost for every three villages of the Sumy Oblast located next to the Kiev-Moscow highway.
For the time being, nuclear electric power is the cheapest in Ukraine. One should however keep in mind the exhaustibility of nuclear power plants' endurance. The era of a cheap "peaceful atom" is becoming a thing of the past, and saving the NPPs will require heavy investment in the modernization of the entire industry.
Construction of a single power generating unit will cost Ukraine about $5 billion, which is beyond Ukraine's grasp with its annual budget accounting for $37 billion. Fund raising for the construction of new NPPs is challenging. Few, if any, investors in their right mind will agree to invest billions in the Ukrainian nuclear energy industry. Especially given that difficulties with nuclear facilities fundraising are even experienced by countries like the United States and Great Britain. Today, there are no universal solutions of attracting investors to the NPP construction project.
The record shows that until 2030 Ukraine will not build a single nuclear power plant unit. Moreover, it is planned to reduce nuclear capacities. Proper allowance must be made for the fact that nuclear decommissioning will inevitably entail a 75-80% decrease in the nuclear power aggregate capacity. Consequently, the country will lose up to 40% of power generation.
In the number of reactors Ukraine ranks 10th in the world and fifth in Europe. The country's four operating nuclear power plants embrace 15 reactors, 11 of which need repair. A thorough overhaul could increase the lifespan of some of them for 10-15 years. The rest needs to be shut down permanently.
So, three of the six power units of the Zaporizhia NPP have already been renewed to operate until 2025-2027. Two others need emergency maintenance.
The most sticky situation has arisen at the South Ukraine NPP with two of the three reactors having already experienced the extension of their operation term to be shut down in 2023-2025, and the third one needs overhaul in 2020.
At the Khmelnitskiy NPP, one of the two units also needs repair.
The oldest power unit No. 1 of Rivne NPP will be decommissioned as well. In 2010, Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate issued a license to extend its lifespan for an additional 20 years. The deadline will elapse in 2030 and the reactor will be shut down. This will mark a turning point in the Ukrainian nuclear energy and the state will have to choose either to develop the industry and launch new capacities, or come to terms with the death of nuclear energy.
If this is the case, Ukraine will need to build 10-15 new reactors, otherwise, if experts are right in their estimates, nuclear energy will face an all-round hard time. The added complication is that nuclear specialists are leaving the country on a massive scale.
"The level of NPP operation is very low now," says Professor Igor Ostretsov, Doctor of Engineering and expert in nuclear physics and nuclear energy. "The situation is really difficult. Specialists with the Ukrainian nuclear power plants realize that the stations are about to close, at the best of times. Therefore, they try to somehow carve out their lives. Naturally, those getting a chance to escape use it.
There are many highly-skilled professionals among Ukrainian nuclear engineers who are easily hired in Russia, where the second stages of the Kursk, Leningrad and Novovoronezh nuclear power plants are being built. They will be engaged at the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey constructed by Rosatom. Ultimately, it is planned to build stations in Egypt, India, Azerbaijan, Hungary, China. The demand for such specialists will most likely remain unaltered.