When Unit 4 of the VI Lenin nuclear power station exploded shortly after 1am, it sent plumes of radioactive debris, molten bitumen and chunks of graphite spewing into the Ukrainian night sky. The date was April 26, 1986, but the legacy of Chernobyl and the world’s worst nuclear accident continues to this day. At the time, it felt like a death blow for nuclear power, poisoning not just large parts of Ukraine and Belarus but also the fraught debate over the risks of nuclear energy. Some countries, such as Italy, abandoned nuclear power almost overnight. In Britain, the response was more nuanced, but the disaster did help to put the industry in a deep freeze, forcing the government to drop plans for a new fleet of reactors amid growing public hostility. Only one new reactor has been built in the UK since, at Sizewell in Suffolk. Yet 30 years after Chernobyl, Russia’s nuclear industry is making an unlikely comeback. This month, thousands of international delegates will fly into Moscow for Atomexpo 2016, a nuclear energy conference organised by Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear supplier and the same company that built Chernobyl. While EDF, the troubled French nuclear champion, faces big technical problems and delays with its EPR reactor, earmarked for Hinkley Point in Britain, Rosatom has been stealing a march on rivals and building up its order book. It now has orders for new nuclear plants worth $101 billion in Russia and other countries, including Vietnam, China, India, Bangladesh, Belarus and Hungary. It is also making inroads into western Europe, with a new reactor planned for Finland, where a botched rival project involving EDF is running billions of euros over budget and years behind schedule. Rosatom has signed deals with Egypt and Argentina and others are planned for South Africa and Jordan. In total, Rosatom claims to be building 41 reactors around the world, 37 per cent of the global total.
Times 2nd May 2016 read more »