Ukraine nuclear plant accident poses 'no threat' despite electrical fault: minister

Ukraine's Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn speaks to the media during a news conference in Kiev, on Dec 3, 2014. Ukraine said Wednesday there was "no threat" from an electrical fault at a nuclear power plant last week and that it would would
Ukraine's Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn speaks to the media during a news conference in Kiev, on Dec 3, 2014. Ukraine said Wednesday there was "no threat" from an electrical fault at a nuclear power plant last week and that it would would be fixed by Friday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV (AFP, Reuters) - Ukraine said Wednesday there was "no threat" from an electrical fault at a nuclear power plant last week and that it would would be fixed by Friday.

The short-circuit at the Zaporozhye plant in the southeast of the country occurred on Friday, leading to a partial shutdown and electricity shortages in the surrounding region.

"The accident happened in the third block of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in the power output section. This is in no way associated with the reactor," Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn told reporters.

Demchyshyn said tests would be run at the affected block over the next two days and by Friday it will be working at full strength.

Nuclear power accounts for 44 percent of Ukraine's power production, according to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

A statement on the power plant's website had said that production unit three had been disconnected from the power network until December 5 and that radiation levels around the plant were "unchanged". The Vienna-based IAEA said it had no immediate comment on the report.

Under an international convention, adopted after the April 1986 Chernobyl accident in what was then Soviet Ukraine, a country must notify the IAEA of any nuclear accident that can have an impact on other countries.

The explosion and fire at the Chernobyl power plant, the world’s worst nuclear accident, was caused by human error and a series of blasts sent a cloud of radioactive dust billowing across northern and western Europe. Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, have estimated the death toll at only a few thousand as a result of the explosion while the environmental group Greenpeace says the accident will eventually cause up to 93,000 extra cancer deaths worldwide.

Interfax news agency said a 1,000-megawatt reactor was housed in the bloc at Zaporizhzhya where last Friday’s accident occurred. Demchyshyn said the affected bloc had been provisionally disconnected from the electro-energy system though its reactor continued to work normally. “Its power output is not being used. I think that the problem will be resolved by Friday,” he said.

The accident has had a slight impact on Ukraine’s energy system, but Demchyshyn said he would ask the major industrial consumers to impose a ‘voluntary restriction’ in energy consumption.

Ukraine produced more than 60 million tonnes of coal last year, making it self-sufficient in electricity and coal. Separatist fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions since June has halted production at 66 coal mines, however, leaving Ukrainian power plants without enough raw materials.