Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 179

On September 29, several hundred employees of Ukraine’s five nuclear power stations marched along Kyiv’s center and picketed the government building, demanding wage arrears for several months. They also say that though the legislation forbids them to strike, they can–according to internal regulations–stop work whenever they feel unwell psychologically or physically, which may result in the stations’ emergency shutdown. The protest began September 24 at the South-Ukrainian nuclear plant near Mykolaiv, where the employees set up tents not far from the station (Ukrainian television, Studio 1+1, September 24). Only those employees who are not at work or on vacation are participating (Ukrainian agencies and television, September 28-29).

Ukraine’s nuclear power engineering–despite numerous minor incidents, none of which have apparently affected the radiation levels since the Chornobyl disaster of 1986–has so far been one of the most efficient and reliable domestic industries. The country’s five nuclear plants have been generating roughly a half of Ukraine’s electricity, regularly increasing output despite the economic hardships of the past decade. The government, despite the current financial turmoil and the total budget wage debt of over 3.6 billion hryvnyas, has agreed to pay the nuclear plants’ employees a part of the debt (29.3 million hryvnyas) late yesterday (Ukrainian agencies, September 29). Even a short break in the work of the nuclear plants may play havoc with Ukraine’s outdated heavy industry. But the cabinet currently has no money to pay wage arrears in full. There is, therefore, a danger of recurrent protests of the nuclear plants’ personnel in the near future according to the miners’ pattern, which poses a real threat not only to the economy but to something more serious–nuclear safety.–OV