Chornobyl Shelter Put Off Again
KIEV, Ukraine -- The construction of a long-awaited confinement arch over the Chornobyl nuclear plant’s infamous No. 4 reactor, which exploded in the 1986 accident, is once again hanging in the air, following the plant management’s cancellation of a seemingly never-ending tender to select a contractor.
According to an announcement published on the plant’s website, Chornobyl director Ihor Hramotkin decided on Sept. 14 to “annul the tender and reject all bids on a new, safe confinement project.”
In an awkward attempt at damage control, the Emergencies Ministry promptly suspended Hramotkin’s decision, while Deputy Prime Minister for Fuel and Energy Andriy Kliuev declared “mutual understanding” with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is serving as the financial administrator for the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP).
Back in May of this year, Valeriy Kulishenko, the station’s chief engineer in charge of the SIP, told the Post that the tender winner of the tender had been selected in March. But, according to him, the other finalist in the bidding was appealing against the tender result, thereby preventing the signing of a contract that could be worth up to $1 billion in total.
The two finalists in the drawn out tender, which was announced in March 2004, were Novarca, a European-Ukrainian joint venture under the management of France’s Vinchi Group, and a United States-Ukrainian consortium under the management of U.S.-based CH2M Hill, according to the Chornobyl plant’s website.
According to Kulishenko, even though the winner was selected, the name of the company was never made public because of the pending appeal of the loser.
Both the EBRD and CH2M Hill told the Post last May that they couldn’t confirm whether or not a winner of the tender had been selected or not.
Oddly, despite the fact that Hramotkin had announced the cancellation of the tender on Sept. 14, his statement was not made public until Sept. 18, after Kliuev’s affirmations that all was well.
On Sept. 18, Kliuev’s press service released a statement on the results of a Ukraine-EBRD Joint Commission meeting in which the status of the shelter construction tender was discussed between Kliuev and EBRD Vice President Fabrizio Saccomanni.
“There are no problem issues in the relationships with the EBRD … mutual understanding has been reached on all issues,” reads the Sept. 18 statement.
Shortly after this annoucement, the Emergencies Ministry published its own statement. “Given that this news might spark controversy, a government commission will be created to study the reasons and motives for [Hramotkin] making this decision, which will give its conclusions and recommendations for further steps. [Hramotkin] took personal responsibility for his decision to cancel the tender,” the ministry said. However, it added that Hramotkin had the right to cancel the tender “as the contract awarding party, in accordance with legislation.”
Then, a few days later, on Sept. 22, the ministry released a statement (dated Sept. 15) on the suspension of Hramotkin’s decision.
“In order to study the reasons and basis for the decision of the Chornobyl Plant to cancel the tender for drafting, constructing and launching of the new safe confinement, the general director Hramotkin is to suspend it ... and report on it in person to the ministry,” reads the Emergency Ministry statement.
Ihor Storozhuk, Kliuev’s spokesperson, told the Post on Sept. 20 that the statement released by their press service claiming “mutual understanding on all the issues” should be considered the government’s official position.
Axel Reiserer, spokesman for the EBRD’s London office told the Post on Sept. 19 that the EBRD was planning to call a project donor assembly as early as October to announce the winner.
EBRD President Jean Lemierre is scheduled to visit Kyiv next week.
To date, around $1 billion has been allocated for the Shelter project by 23 countries, with the United States and EU being the largest donors.
The company that wins the tender would be responsible for assembling and mounting a giant 100-meter-high, 150-meter-long and 250-meter-wide arch to cover the plant’s notorious No. 4 Reactor, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident on April 26, 1986. Originally, the winner was to be selected by the end of 2004.
According to information provided by the Emergencies Ministry, more than 330 million euros ($418 million) of the project’s funds had already been spent ahead of the tender’s closure. This amount, the ministry said, includes nearly 90 million euros ($114 million) in consulting fees.
Both CH2M’s Colorado headquarters and Hramotkin were unavailable for comment.
Source: Kyiv Post