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Bulgaria VVER Accident Report 2006

Bulgaria VVER Accident Report 2006

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Published by: Dialogue On Nukes on Nov 22, 2011
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On March 1, block 5 of the Kozloduy NPP in North Bulgariaexperienced what is arguably its largest incident to date. Outof the 60 regulation (or control) rods* in the reactor, 22 did notappear to be functioning. This means that in the case of anemergency shutdown with loss of cooling water, it would nothave been possible to stop the reactor quickly, which couldhave led to a meltdown.
(647.5754) WISE Brno
- The incidentonly became public knowledge almosttwo months later, after whistleblowersreleased information to Austria andGermany and the incident's subsequentupgrade from (International NuclearEvent Scale) INES 0 to INES 2.The Kozloduy director, Ivan Ivanov, wasfired from his position four months afterthe incident and Bulgarian Economyand Energy Minister Ovcharov has alsocome under attack from environmentalgroups that accuse him of exaggeratinginternational support for the Belenenuclear power plant project.
Kozloduy incident
The definitive account of the events ofMarch 1 at Kozloduy's 5 VVER1000/320 reactor was given by GeorgiKaschtschiev, who formerly held theposts of director at Kozloduy anddirector of Bulgaria's Nuclear RegulationOffice and who currently works as aresearcher at the Institute for RiskAnalysis in Vienna.On April 23 Kaschtschiev told theGerman daily
thatoperators had tried to activate onecluster of regulation rods to reduce thereactor's capacity by 30% after one ofits four main cooling pumps becamedisconnected. (1) Of the six rods in thecluster, three remained in place. Inorder to run down the reactor, workerspumped boric acid in to prevent a chainreaction. After the reactor wasstabilised, the remaining nine clusterswere tested by carrying out anemergency shutdown resulting in a total22 of the 60 regulation rods remainingstuck in the highest position.Kaschtschiev compared the situation todriving a car at full throttle withoutfunctioning brakes.This situation was made possible afterthe Russian maintenance companyHydropress made changes to the fuellay-out during one of the safetyupgrades at Kozloduy block 5 in thesummer of 2005 - an upgradeprogramme was partially funded withmoney from Euratom. The plan was toperform the same upgrade on the otherBulgarian VVER 1000 reactor, Kozloduy6, this summer. The Bulgarian presshas speculated that Hydropress failed totest the new layout and the functionalityof the regulation rods because it hadalready tested a similar upgrade inRussia. These claims weresubsequently denied by the BulgarianNuclear Regulatory Agency in aninterview with the Platts publication
Nucleonics Week 
JUNE 30, 2006|No. 647
Kozloduy 5 remained off-line for tendays following the incident, which wasrated at INES 0 by its operator.Information released to the press didnot reveal the true gravity of theincident and thus was completelyignored by the Bulgarian press. It wasnot until whistleblowers from the powerstation leaked the details to their formerchief Kaschtschiev in Vienna and he inturn informed the German press almosttwo months later, that Bulgariabecame aware of the realcircumstances behind theincident.The Bulgarian NuclearRegulation Agency immediatelyreacted to the revelations byupgrading the incident rating toINES 1. Kozloduy's then-director Ivan Ivanov, gave aninterview to the daily
,while apparently intoxicated, inwhich he accused the Bulgarianpress of being un-patriotic forsourcing information on theincident from the Germanpress. He made severalincredible statements during thefurore actually denying thefacts, "What accident? There isno accident, boy! There is noreal situation". Ivanov also toldreporters that, "Things like thishappen every day in the powerstation" and "You can write wehave said it. Write: Ivan Ivanov is acriminal. He does not understandanything." (3)The commemoration of Chernobyl inSofia - two exhibitions by Dutchphotographer Robert Knoth and a nightvigil held by activists from Za Zemiata,Bankwatch, Greenpeace, Ekoglasnost,the Foundation for EnvironmentalJustice and other members of theBeleNE! Coalition in front of Bulgaria'sEconomy and Energy Ministry - drew alot of media attention that furtherwhipped up the debate around theKozloduy incident. Economy MinisterOvcharov tried his best to duck criticalquestions and seemed to back upIvanov's smear campaign againstKaschtschiev by describing him as anon-expert. Nevertheless,Kaschtschiev's version of events couldnot be denied and following a vacuouspress conference held at the Ministry ofEnergy and Economy on May 3, thecredibility of the authorities amongstBulgarian journalists reached rock-bottom and the Bulgarian regulatorfound itself exposed and forced toupgrade the incident rating toINES 2. (4)The reactor was finally shut down forrepairs on June 17 and will remain off-line until early September. (5)In the mean time, Ivanov's position asdirector of Kozloduy became untenablealthough he did attempt to rescue hispost and reputation by offering anofficial apology for his previous
interview in the same newspaper onMay 4. The subsequent weeks sawBulgaria heavily criticised by theEuropean Union for its failure todismantle Kozloduy blocks 1 and 2,which were closed in 2002. Thiscensure, coupled with the March 1incident, forced Economy MinisterOvcharov to dismiss Ivanov onJune 6. (6)
Minister misleads
Environmental organisations united inthe BeleNE! Coalition, along withGreenpeace and the German bank-watching group urgewald, haveaccused the Economy and EnergyMinister Ovcharov of attempting to savethe Belene NPPproject throughdeception.The country plans to build another twoVVER 1000 reactors 150 kilometresdownstream of the Danube and nearthe towns of Belene and Svishtov,which lost 200 people in a 1977earthquake. In recent months,Ovcharov claimed that he had securedfinancing for the project from, amongstothers, four German banks -Bayerische Landesbank,Deutsche Bank, Commerzbankand HVB. When BayerischeLandesbank denied having aninterest in the project (7),Ovcharov, in a rather amazingabout-turn, then claimed thatthe bank had never beencontacted. In the followingweeks, Commerzbank told itsshareholders meeting that itwould not finance any NPPproject that could not meet thehighest global standards. Thatexplicitly included nuclearplants in seismically activezones like Belene. HVB andDeutsche Bank told theirshareholders meetings thathigh safety and environmentalstandards would need to bemet before either would bewilling to provide financing forBelene.Petko Kovatchev of CEE Bankwatchconcluded, "If these banks are seriousabout what they say, Belene does notstand a chance." Heffa Schücking ofurgewald announced that a coalition ofNGOs would also address otherreportedly interested banks likeUniCredit Group of Italia and CitiGroupof the United States to discourageinvolvement with the project.On several occasions over the lastmonths, Ovcharov had been reported inthe Bulgarian press as stating thatBelene would get a loan - an amount of300 million Euros - from Euratom.However, Euratom itself denies havingany formal or informal contact with theBulgarian government since anexchange of innocuous letters at theend of 2004. Ovcharov also claimed tohave the support of IAEApresidentMohamed ElBaradei but public relationsofficials at the IAEAPR strongly denied
Kozloduy closure plan unveiled
Executives at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant havepresented a strategy for the closure and dismantling ofthe first four reactors at the site. The proposal wouldneed to be approved by officials at Bulgaria's NuclearRegulatory Agency and the Ministry of Energy andEconomy before it could be implemented.The strategy reportedly includes a detailed plan thatspecifies deadlines as well as the estimated cost ofclosing and dismantling the reactors. The owners of theplant are expected to fund the majority of the work butthe project could also receive funds from the EuropeanCommission.Aspecial team of inspectors will now access which partsof the reactors are not radioactive and can thus be soldon to other Bulgarian power plants. The radioactivewaste would be disposed of at a specially built facilitynear the site, which is located in a region of seismicactivity.
Sofia Echo, June 29 2006
this when questioned by Bankwatchand said that ElBaradei would neverhave supported the Belene project.*
Regulation or control rods absorb neutrons and regulate the rate of fission reaction. Moving the rods in and out of the reactor allows operators to regulate the capacity. In case of an emergency shutdown or scram, the electro-magnets on which the regulation rods hang are released so that the rods can fall freely into the reactor thus directly stopping the chain reaction. Should the rods not function, operators have two options for running the reactor down - either boric acid is pumped into the cooling water or the installed sprinkler system is used to flood the entire reactor with a boric acid solution 
Der Tagesspiegel 
, April 23 2006, "SchwerePanne in bulgarischem Kernkraftwerk"(2)
Nucleonics Week 
, Volume 47 / Number 18 / May 4, 2006, "Regulators reviewing sticking ofKozloduy-5 control rod drives"(3)
, May 1 2006, "You can write: there areidiots in the NPP"(4)
Nucleonics Week 
, Volume 47;
Sofia Echo 
, May9 2006, "Debates in Bulgaria on the Re-Opening ofKozlodui NPP's Fifth Block"(5) Sofia News Agency, June 17 2006, "BulgariaShuts Nuclear Reactor for Repair"(6) AFP, June 6 2006, "Bulgarian Energy MinisterFires Nuclear Power Plant Boss"(7) UPI, May 2 2006, "Bank halts financing ofBulgarian plant"
WISE/NIRS Brno, CzechRepublic, Jan Haverkamp(jan.haverkamp@wisebrno.cz) or CEEBankwatch, Sofia, Petko Kovatchev(petkok@bankwatch.org)
 A television documentary transmitted on June 13 has revealed the results of a survey thatsuggests that cancer rates in women under the age of 50 and living near the shutdownTrawsfynydd plant is over 15 times the UK national average.
(647.5755) Low Level RadiationCampaign
- The programme shown onWales' fourth television channel S4Cunveiled the results of a survey carriedout in the Gwynedd villages of LlanFfestinidg, Gellilydan and Cwm Prysirlocated the vicinity of Trawsfynyddnuclear power station in north Wales.The plant was closed in 1991 and isnow being decommissioned.Researchers took their questionnairedoor to door and spoke to almost athousand people of all ages in threecommunities around the nuclear plant.The questionnaire asked about theincidence of cancer within eachhousehold from 1996 to 2005 andshowed levels of cancer that formerEnvironment Minister Michael Meacherdescribed as "sensational".The results of the questionnaire wereanalysed by Dr. Chris Busby, director ofthe environmental consultancy GreenAudit, and the report of this analysis canbe found at ww.llrc.org/traws/htm.The overall picture is of increased risksof all types of cancer relative to nationalrates. Additionally, there appears to be agreater effect in the latter part of thestudy period, due to "data leakage" -people becoming lost to the studybecause they die or move away, orbecause, after the death of the patient,the surviving family membersmove away.The data obtained show that the fartherback in time one goes, the less canceris reported. In addition, the relativelysmall number of lung cancer casesreported is clear evidence of the effectof data leakage since lung cancertypically accounts for around a quarterof all cancers. It is therefore veryprobable that the results for the laterperiod 2003 to 2005 reflect the reality ofcancer incidence in the locality - adoubled overall risk of cancer withincreased relative risks in the youngerage groups.The relatively higher excess rates in theunder 50 age group are hard to explainand leave questions to be answered byfurther research. The 11.3-fold excesscontains a greater than 15-fold excessrisk for women, which is not due to highbreast cancer rates (Relative Risk 15.3;very high statistical significance). Breastcancer in the 51 to 60 year age group,however, is five times the nationalaverage for women of that age (RelativeRisk 4.9; high statistical significance).Alerted by a significant proportion of thebreast cancer victims who reported thatthey had sometimes eaten fish fromTrawsfynydd Lake, the researchersconducted a further survey to ascertainthe background rate of fish eating.Trawsfynydd Lake covers almost fivesquare kilometres, is artificial and wasused as a cooling lagoon throughout theactive life of the power station. Thelake-bottom sediment down to a depthof 300 mm is known to be highlycontaminated with a meanconcentration of 4¼ million Bequerelsper tonne of radioactivity. This is morethan ten times the concentration thatunder UK legislation is defined as LowLevel Radioactive Waste requiringcontrol. The lake is neverthelessadvertised as a sports amenity forswimming, boating and fishing althoughauthorities are known to regularlymonitor the lake trout. The secondsurvey found that eating fish from thelake was more than twice as commonamong the recent cancer patients (i.e. in2003 to 2005) than among the healthypopulation. This is a statisticallysignificant finding. The only cancerpatient under 20 found by the study - an18 year old with lymphoma - was said tobe an avid angler who had fished thelake regularly. [Note: the expectednumbers of cancer cases in youngpeople in this population is 0.102 casesin the ten years.]There is also a notably high incidenceof mesothelioma (highly statisticallysignificant based on 3 patients). Thiscancer is usually associated withexposure to asbestos but 20% of casesare thought to be due to radiation,according to the Oxford Textbook ofPathology.The Welsh Cancer Intelligence andSurveillance Unit is responsible forcollating cancer figures for the wholecountry but has never published abreakdown of cancer rates for specific

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