Ukraine’s nuclear power plants last year generated over 40% of the country’s electricity, according to Energoatom. Total production from the 14 reactor units at five sites was 75.24 billion kWh, down from 79.4 billion kWh in 1997. The 1998 figure was 8.3% above target. The 1998 nuclear share in total production was 43.5%, down slightly from 44.9% the previous year. The average capacity factor for the nuclear park fell from 71.3% in 1997 to 67%. There were 73 incidents rated on the IAEA’s International Nuclear Event Scale, the vast majority (65) classed as level zero. Seven events were rated level one, and one at level two.

Security concerns 28 managers and senior executives in the Ukrainian nuclear industry have signed an appeal to the country’s president, Leonid Kuchma, warning that: “The deep and many-sided crisis in nuclear energy poses a direct threat to Ukraine’s national security.” The appeal warns that serious social unrest, including strikes, protest marches and worsening psychological and material conditions among the industry work force, is developing.

Energoatom reported there were no plant problems that posed a danger to either the population or the environment. The utility added that the amount owed to the company, due to the non-payment of electricity bills, had reached the equivalent of $630 million. The government said last year that the debt was the main reason for the non-payment of wages to nuclear plant personnel. The failure to pay salaries on time led to worker protests outside the government’s headquarters in Kiev. However, a union-government agreement on resolving the dispute was signed in early October.