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Chernobyl Siblings To Run Another 15 Years

Crashing planes and capsizing ships apparently aren’t enough to convince Russia to seriously reform its transportation and energy infrastructure. Apparently neither is the memory of the Chernobyl disaster. As the WSJ reports, Soviet-era nuclear reactors — just like the one that exploded at Chernobyl — will be repaired and continue to operate for another fifteen years:

Sergei Kirienko, chief executive of Rosatom, said in an interview that Russia has taken action to extend the operational life of all of its Soviet-era reactors to 45 years. Among those reactors are 11 units like the one at Chernobyl, which Soviet nuclear engineers thought should be decommissioned after 30 years…

Many nuclear scientists attending the International Atomic Energy Agency’s annual meeting this week in Vienna expressed concern at the Russian move, which would give the youngest of the 11 reactors a planned shutdown date of 2035…

Four of the 11 Soviet-era reactors, known as RBMK reactors, are located less than 50 miles from St. Petersburg, a city of nearly five million people.

Russian officials are experts at cutting corners and surviving criticism when things fail. Throughout the summer, and over the past few years, accusations of poor oversight, lax regulations, and decaying infrastructure have swirled over Russia’s transportation and energy industries. Via Meadia supports the careful use of prudently placed and designed nuclear reactors to generate electricity and is glad to learn the RBMK reactors are getting repairs — but here our instincts align with those of the large number of analysts who would rather just see these particular time bombs shut down:

“No one expected these four reactors to still be running today,” William Horak, head of nuclear research at the Brookhaven National Lab, a part of the Department of Energy and key adviser to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in a interview earlier this year.

Many Western nuclear experts believe the RBMK reactors are among the world’s most dangerous and still suffer from fundamental design shortcomings.

One can only hope that someday the people ruling Russia will at long last decide that the country has suffered enough.

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  • higgins1990

    Mr. Meade, you seem to insinuate that the eleven RBMK reactors still operating will meltdown because a similar reactor at Chernobyl suffered a meltdown. The Chernobyl meltdown was due to gross operator error. Chernobyl didn’t “break” due to poor design.

  • Luke Lea

    According to Wikipedia there have been few if any confirmed deaths from long-term radiation exposure at Chernobyl. The same goes for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Radiation hysteria, not radiation exposure, is what we suffer from. Chalk it up to environmental activists — again (along with AGW and keeping the green revolution out of Africa).

    We can be made to fear invisible things we do not understand, whether it be electromagnetic waves or alpha particles or DNA mutations.

  • dearieme

    “Chernobyl didn’t “break” due to poor design.” True – but, by God, it had ample poor design.

  • Matt

    At least we can take comfort in the fact that the remaining operators of RBMK reactors are unlikely to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Everyone in the control room dying horribly probably tends to stick in one’s mind when one is contemplating disabling every single safety feature in your reactor for the sake of an unnecessary and needlessly dangerous test.

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