Ukraine honours deal to close Chernobyl reactor

Ukraine closed the last working reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in mid-December, fulfilling its agreement of late 1999 to permanently shut the plant. The move was welcomed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan but took place to protests by plant workers.

The order for the shutdown of Reactor No. 3 was given on December 15, 2000 by Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma.

The shutdown followed years of international pressure from governments concerned with safety at the plant in light of the accident of April 1986 when an explosion in Reactor No. 4 sent a radioactive cloud across Europe. Reactor No. 3 accounted for around five per cent of Ukraine’s total electricity supply.

Ukraine resisted calls to close the plant on the basis thatit needed the electricity production. Its closure is likely to have a considerable socio-economic impact on the surrounding area, leaving most of its 6000 employees without jobs.

The European Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will help the country complete the construction of two nuclear reactors, and ensure they meet international safety requirements.

Oman will unbundle and sell power sector

Oman’s Electricity and Water Minister Mohammad bin A* Al-Qetabi has said that the state will unbundle and privatize its power sector in a stepped process scheduled to begin in 2001. The government will establish separate commercial firms which will be sold off later.

The process will involve the unbundling and corporatization of the Ministry’s activities into separate generation, transmission and distribution units. The government is drafting a new law that will set up a regulatory body to monitor the companies, which will be sold once they are operating on a sound commercial basis, said Al-Qetabi.

The news came as the Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with a consortium of local and international firms to build a Rial90m ($234m) private power plant at Salalah. A final agreement was expected to be signed by the end of December 2000.

The 200 MW power plant will be developed by PSEG Global and is scheduled for completion in 2003.

Bosnia exports power to Serbia

Bosnian Serb power company Elektroprivreda RS is exporting electricity to Serbia to help the Yugoslav Republic cope with its current energy problems. Elektroprivreda did not say how much power it is providing, but stated that it would export “all available resources” depending on Serbia’s daily needs.

Average daily power production in Serbia is approximately 17 000 MWh. Its power system is struggling to meet demand after years of under-investment and war. In October 2000 over half the country was left without power after a failure at the country’s largest power plant.

Enel wins Dewa contract

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) has signed a deal with Italian utility Enel for the construction of a $572m power and water project in the United Arab Emirates.

The plant will be the second largest of its kind in the Gulf and will be constructed over a 32 month period. Enel’s partner, Fisia Italimpianti – a unit of Impreglio – will build the desalination part of the project while Enel will be responsible for the power plant.

The power and water plant will have a total capacity of 880 MW and 182m litres/day of water.

Czechs back down on nuclear plant

The dispute between Austria and the Czech Republic over the future of the Temelin nuclear power plant was diffused in December after the Czech government agreed to a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the plant.

The EIA will be carried out by international experts under the supervision of the European Commission. Until the completion of the study in June 2001 the plant will continue to operate at test levels. Czech Premier Milos Zeman said that if the experts conclude that the plant should not start operating, it will not enter commercial operation.

The agreement means that Austria will now drop its objection to the completion of negotiations on the Czech Republic joining the European Union. Zeman said that he was confident that the EIA will show that the Soviet-designed plant, upgraded with a Westinghouse control system, is safe.

The $2.5bn power plant in the Czech Republic is located 50 km from the Austrian border. As part of the agreement reached in December 2000, both sides also agreed to establish an information ‘hotline’ between Vienna and Prague and an early warning system to detect safety problems.