At the beginning of April the Ministry of Environment sent official notification, thereby starting transboundary environmental impact assessment procedure for two nuclear power plants in Ukraine (Zaporizhska and Yuzho-Ukrainska NPPs) in line with the Espoo Convention. The notification was sent to Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Belarus, Moldova, Austria and Hungary.
Formally, the environmental impact assessment (EAI) is applied to the existing nuclear power plants at their life cycle “operation”. At the same time, environmental impact assessment of the operation of these NPPs is linked to life time extension of specific nuclear units. The notification explicitly states that the outcomes of the transboundary consultations, including public participation in respective countries, will be taken into account when taking a decision to extend life time of nuclear units 3 at Yuzhno-Ukraniska NPP and 3-6 at Zaporizhska NPP.
The fact an EIA is carried out for nuclear facilities is important by itself. This suggests that systemic changes took place regarding the attitude by state-run Energoatom company and all respective public authorities. It is unclear, though, how the outcomes of the EIA and consultations can be integrated into the decision on life time extension of specific units. Still, the EIA process can produce interesting results. In particular, no environmental impacts were studied before the construction of these units in Soviet times (expect for radiation impacts). New research, which is part of the process, can trigger public and expert discussions as to the environmental impacts of the nuclear industry in Ukraine, including health impacts.
The Espoo Convention – is an international treaty, which sets an obligation to carry out transboundary impact assessment for certain planned activities. Its implementation in nuclear field in Ukraine requires specific measures, as argued in our thematic policy paper (2014).