On 14 February, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine conducted press conference on the completion of NATO Pilot Project on Disposal of Radioactive Waste stored in Vakulenchuk disposal facility in the Zhytomyr Oblast.
“Today, when Ukraine feels threat from outside and when some state territories are occupied, the support of our NATO partners gives hope for the best”, Ostap Semerak, the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, started the conference. “The project currently in question is the pilot one between Ukraine and NATO. It clearly illustrates how efficiently and fruitfully one can cooperate in order to achieve an important goal, in this case the goal is Ukrainian radiation safety”.
The minister said that there are several sites for similar radioactive waste storage and disposal in Ukraine subjected to liquidation. The greatest threat pose those facilities that remained on territories beyond control of Ukraine, particularly in the Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine. Ostap Semerak expressed his gratitude to NATO partners for their cooperation and assured that in future the Ministry will make every effort in order to liquidate all radioactive waste disposal facilities inherited by Ukraine from the Soviet Union.
“Today’s event is of great importance for the history of cooperation between Ukraine and the NATO. Our experts gained valuable experience for the implementation of future projects. We are currently discussing further cooperation in this sphere”, Alexander Vinnikov, Head of the NATO Liaison Office in Ukraine, underlined.
Vitalii Petruk, Head of the State Agency of Ukraine on the Exclusion Zone Management (SAEZ), joined the discussion: “Transfer of radioactive waste disposal facilities from the regions of Ukraine is a priority task for our country. All radioactive waste should be concentrated in the Exclusion Zone with appropriate developed infrastructure and staff trained in this sphere”. According to the Head of SAEZ, lack of adequate funding in this sphere is quite noticeable. Therefore, the support of international organizations such as the NATO is warmly welcomed.
“Disposal facility liquidation significantly improved safety in the region, since about 30 tons of radioactive material were transported from the Zhytomyr Oblast. Unfortunately, several radwaste legacy disposal facilities remained in Ukraine, first of all, Kyiv State Interregional Specialized Enterprise, and hazardous facilities near Odessa, Lviv, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv”, noted Vitalii Petruk, Head of SAEZ.
Ihor Shevchenko, Director of the State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (SSTC NRS), emphasized that the Vakulenchuk disposal facility was extremely contaminated. Its background values exceeded thousand times the natural background. There are very few of such disposal facilities in Ukraine. Most of facilities in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone are much cleaner”, SSTC NRS Director commented. According to him, after the project completion, the radiation background on remediated territories meets the standard and is the lowest in the Oblast.