58 world leaders took part in the Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague on March 25 focusing on reducing the amount of dangerous nuclear material in the world that terrorists could use to make a nuclear weapon (highly enriched uranium and plutonium); improving the security of radioactive material (including low-enriched uranium) that can be used to make a ‘dirty bomb’; improving the international exchange of information and international cooperation. It was presupposed that the summit would give a new impetus to advancing the policy started by 1995 Moscow, 2010 Washington and 2012 Seoul events and provide answers to a host of questions. What has been done to advance nuclear security since the recent meeting? What about the consequences of Fukushima tragedy? What are the key directions on international and bilateral nuclear cooperation today? What can nuclear industry offer to improve safety standards? It was expected that the summit would focus on states’ responsibility for providing physical protection, because many countries have so far failed to join the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The former hosts to the conference – the United States and South Korea – have not signed any of these documents. At first, the events in Ukraine eclipsed to some extent the agenda which had been set before. An emergency G7 meeting took place on the sidelines upon the initiative of Barack Obama to discuss additional sanctions against Russia. The situation in Ukraine gives rise for concern. Armed nationalist formations have free hand and, under certain circumstances, may seize nuclear facilities to blackmail authorities.
Ukrainian media outlets write that the questions on nuclear material’s use and storage are still hanging in the air. Ukraine has accumulated 4500 tons of spent fuel kept near reactors in temporary storage sites. The capacity is limited and the storage conditions are not up to safety standards. The spent material contains totally 12 tons of plutonium (enough to produce 1000 nuclear warheads). There are no contemporary spent fuel storages in Ukraine now. It makes the situation critical.
The Pridneprovsk chemical plant was involved in uranium enrichment process in 1949-1991. As the facility was closed, the spent material remained stored in nine sites which are in pitiful plight. The facility is not guarded, there is no fence. Color metals and pipes are stolen in great quantities. Water pumping stations have vanished; nothing stands on the way of radioactive dust spreading around. There are areas with high level of gamma radiation called «radioactive beaches» by scholars. Besides, the nuclear facility is surrounded by agricultural lands. Approximately 30 thousand of poisonous dust falls down into the ground yearly!
There have been numerous attempts to steal the radioactive material away from the territory of the plant. They have been prevented as of now. But today Banderite gangs have over 5000 automatic rifles, hundreds of guns, over a hundred man-portable reactive flame throwers "Shmel" and over a hundred man-portable air defense systems from plundered military warehouses. It greatly complicates providing security, especially under the conditions when the Kiev junta members fight and devour one another like spiders in a pot.
There is one more matter that evokes concern. Spent fuel has been brought to Ukraine from the United States recently. It costs 40% more than the Russian fuel and produces less energy. Nobody knows what to do with it now. The US won’t take it back, so the waste will remain forever in Ukraine which is plunging into the quagmire of «national revolution».
The US-Ukraine nuclear agreements in the Hague «strike imagination». The Joint Statement of the United States and Ukraine mentions only the construction of the Neutron Source Facility at the Kharkiv Institute for Physics and Technology. The United States will continue to provide technical support for the Neutron Source Facility as Ukraine completes the necessary final equipment installation, testing, and start-up to make the facility fully operational as soon as practical. The fact that the facility in Kharkiv has no whatsoever relation to nuclear safety was omitted. Not a word was said about this really burning issue at the Hague event.
So there is no solution in sight. The gist of the problem is that potential radioactive weapons – temporary nuclear storage sites - are getting accumulated on the Ukrainian soil. As the «national revolution» proceeds, the sites can become a «doomsday weapon» at any time. It will affect Russia and the whole of Europe. For how long can this problem be ignored?