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Czechoslovakia: 1977 meltdown

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#345
18/01/1991
Article

(January 18, 1991) In Czechoslavakia in 1977 at the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power station there was a fuel rod meltdown in the A1 Soviet type 150 Mw heavy water reactor. Information on the accident, as well as an earlier accident at the same reactor which resulted in two deaths, is only now becoming public. The reactor, which began operation in 1972, has been shut down since the 1977 accident. There is still spent fuel inside the reactor core that cannot be removed.

(345.344) WISE Stockholm - In Czechoslavakia in 1977 at the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power station there was a fuel rod meltdown in the A1 Soviet type 150 Mw heavy water reactor. Information on the accident, as well as an earlier accident at the same reactor which resulted in two deaths, is only now becoming public. The reactor, which began operation in 1972, has been shut down since the 1977 accident. There is still spent fuel inside the reactor core that cannot be removed.

 

A report from the Austrian Forum for Nuclear Affairs on the reactors still in operation at Bohunice (four Soviet type VVER-440 MW PWRs) recommends immediate closure of the station. The report was commissioned by the Austrian government and presented to Austria's chancellor Franz Vranitzky on 13 December 1990. According to the draft report received by the chancellor's office several weeks earlier, "a severe, not controllable accident can happen at the Bohunice V-1 plant in its current condition at any time. It is the assessment of the Commission of the Forum for Nuclear Affairs that the nuclear plant poses a serious threat to the Austrian population." (Bohunice lies in Slovakia, approximately 60 km. south of the Austrian-Czechoslovakian border.) A secret report from the Czechoslovakian Atomic Energy Agency, leaked to the public last summer, said it is impossible to upgrade outdated reactors of the Soviet type VVER 440/230 to meet international safety standards. The draft report of the commission is even stronger: "Possibly planned measures for a reconstruction of the plant should not suspend the closure of the plant."
Greenpeace (via Greennet, gp.press, topic 190, 14 Dec. 1990)

In both accidents there were large releases of radioactivity. Several nearby villages are effected by tritium contamination of groundwater. Drinking water has been found to contain 65 Bq/litre tritium, and groundwater near the power plant contains 24,000 Bq/litre tritium due to leaking storage tanks. Water beside the tanks contains about 11 million Bq/litre tritium, almost the same as water in the tanks.

On 10 October 1990 two river bed sediment samples taken 10 km downstream from the reactor were found to contain an average of 200 Bq/kg plutonium-239 and -240, and americium-241. The samples were taken in the river Dudvah, which flows into the Danube River. Health officials in Bratislava responded by calling for a research program and possibly more samples after a couple years. The Ministry of Environment, however, wanted immediate action. Finally, after news of the contamination was published in local newspapers on 3 December of last year, government officials created a special team to deal with the problem. Some officials have requested that signs warning local fishermen be posted immediately, and that a comprehensive monitoring program including plants and fish be established.

Source and contact: RnDr. Gabriel Gulis, Department of Environment, District Trnava, Kollarova 8, 91777 Trnava, Czechoslovakia; tel: +42-805-22551/ 27867; fax: +42-805-20266.