The boss of Ukrainian energy giant Energoatom insists that nuclear has a “key” role to play in meeting Europe´s future energy needs. Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, company president Yuriy Nedashkovsky said nuclear was a “safe and reliable” energy source.
He also believes nuclear can help tackle climate change and contribute towards meeting EU targets on CO2 emission reductions.
He said, ” We are fully committed to reducing emissions and in Ukraine alone, we have acheived a two-fold reduction in CO2 emissions since 1990.”
His comments come in the wake of a newly-adopted energy package by the European Commission which sets greenhouse gas reduction objectives for 2030 and the recently agreed gas supply deal between Ukraine and the EU.
Nedashkovsky, who was speaking at the opening of Energoatom´s new Representative Office in Brussels,also said he had “absolute confidence” in the safety of the nuclear power industry.
His company is one of Europe´s main nuclear providers, producing almost 50% of Ukraine’s domestic electricity and operating four nuclear power plants in the country.
Nuclear generates half of Ukraine´s electricity, rising to as much as 60 per cent at some intervals.
Ukraine has 15 nuclear power reactors at four sites (Khmelnitsky, Rovno, South Ukraine and Zaporozhe), all operated by Energoatom. All the units are Russian VVER types.
The role of nuclear energy has recently returned to the centre of the political debate in various corners of Europe.
Two nations are discussing their reliance on nuclear energy this week: one whether to expand it, the other whether to decrease it. A third , the UK,was given the go-ahead for a new nuclear power plant last month.
After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011, several European nations decided to reduce their reliance on nuclear plants or abandon construction plans for new ones.
Exactly half of the 28 member states of the European Union have nuclear power plants, which produce 14 percent of the energy consumed in the bloc. Nuclear energy is the source for around one-third of the EU’s electricity.
In France, where nuclear energy is not a controversial issue, it accounts for about three quarters of the country’s electricity supply.
Nations are trying to reduce emissions of these gases to prevent global warming to exceed 2 degrees Celsius.
Nuclear energy might help some countries to reach the new EU target, said Nedashkovsky.
With all the possible ecological problems that are associated with nuclear energy – the natural consequences of a disaster and the radioactive waste – Nedashkovsky believes nuclear ihas one huge environmental advantage over fossil fuels – It hardly emits greenhouse gases.
In an interview, Nedashkovsky also welcomed the recently agreed Association Agreement with the EU which, he said, would help pave the way for closer integration with the bloc.
He said, “This agreement is significant and will define new relations between the EU and Ukraine. It is a strategic landmark for the Ukraine energy sector which, step by step, is becoming more integrated with the European sector.”
He said the new Brussels office “marked an important step in the integration of Energoatom’s strategies” with European energy policy.
“Our company produces almost 50% of Ukraine’s domestic electricity. And we face an important task in meeting the needs of households and businesses this winter to maintain stable energy supplies,” he said.
His comments were echoed by Andrii Tirurin, who will head the Representative Office and who said, “One of the key tasks of the new Office will be to co-ordinate representation with European industry and international energy sector organisations.
“Energoatom wishes to adopt the highest standards of governance in accordance with European and International norms. It will be an important objective for me to follow public policy and regulatory developments in the EU in respect of energy and climate change, and to assist Energoatom to make a constructive contribution to the European debate.”
He also welcomed the association agreement, saying it offered a “clear signal” of the company´s intentions to develop “more transparent and better relations” with its EU partners.
Meanwhile, Ukraine PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk has instructed the company, the national operator of nuclear power plants, to speed up completion of power generating units and to reorient cooperation from Russia to the EU.
By Martin Banks