October 08, 2004

St. Petersburg: Report Says Renovation of Chernobyl-Type Reactor Rushed

From the St. Petersburg Times, disturbing news about an aging RBMK-1000 type reactor being renovated for reactivation:
Report Says Renovation of Chernobyl-Type Reactor Rushed
October 8, 2004
By Vladimir Kovalev
A series of mishaps has occurred during the renovation of reactor No.1 at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, or LAES, in Sosnovy Bor outside St. Petersburg because basic safety regulations were ignored, according to a new report.

Reactor No. 1 is the oldest of four reactors at the plant and its official working life has expired, but the Federal Nuclear Power Agency is seeking to extend it. It is an RBMK-1000 reactor, the same type that caused the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and LAES management plan to restart it this fall.

Sergei Kharitonov, a former employee of the plant and now an environmental campaigner, wrote in the report that the safety systems for the reactors were installed in a rush, in some cases by unqualified workers, breaching standards on how the work should be done, the report said.

As a result, two workers died in the spring, including a 32-year-old construction worker who fell from the wall of bloc No.1 in April and a 42-year-old fitter was crushed while working on bloc No.2 in May.

"[The management] paid most of its attention to [staff] training for the launch of bloc No.1," Kharitonov quoted LAES management as saying in a statement on July 16. "The lectures were poorly attended ... Two lectures remain to be conducted. Such a situation is unacceptable, when the bloc [No.1] is about to launched, but employees are not ready for it."

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