Alarm Over Safety of Soviet Reactors

(From: Vol 1, Issue 2, October 1987)

The Soviet Union’s most popular type of nuclear reactor has come under fire because of their poor record on safety. The Soviet Union builds a large number of pressurised water reactors known as the V V E R and exports them to Eastern Europe, Finland and Cuba. A report leaked from the International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA ) , which polices the safety of reactors all over the world, indicates that the V V E R reactors have one of the worst records on safety.

T h e report was published by the German magazine Der Spiegel. The magazine had details of 18 accidents in nuclear plants all over the world between 1981 and 1985 out of the over 250 accidents notified to the agency during the same period. The magazine says that 16 out of the 48 incidents occurred in the Russian built VVER reactors. In 1984 alone Czechoslavakia’s largest plant at Bohunice, reported four incidents to the agency.

Meanwhile another report on the VVER reactors by a nuclear scienntist Dr. Helmut Hirsch and published by the Greenpeace of Vienna is highly critical of their safety. This report looks at a serious accident at Kozloduj in Bulgaria on the 21st of February ’83. This accident which was kept secret by the Bulgarian government from its own public is also noted in the IAEA report.

Following an electrical defect two valves were opened in the p r i m a r y cooling system. As pressure inside the system dropped the reactor was switched off. During the incident, emergency cooling water put into the reactor vessel caused the fracturing of one of the weld seems. According to the report the accident could have resulted in a disaster.

T h e first generation of VVER reactors — the 440s built in the sixties and the early seventies may be especially vulnerable. Greenpeace has singled out 10 of these because they have no protection against corrosion inside the pressure vessel. After persistent failure of the containment system, two units built in Finland were fitted U.S. built contain: merits. There are 28 VVER-440s already at work in E. Europe and 14 more under construction.

Source :

New Scientist, 7 May ’87.

WISE News Communique : 277-2370, 257-2347

Editor’s Note:
Chernobyl has m a d e the whole world aware of the safety of Soviet built reactors. Chernobyl was a RBMK type reactor and not a V V E R type reported above. An Indian team has already visited Moscow to negotiate for the supply of two V V E R reactors.