UNECE warns of high risks of industrial accidents in Ukraine and recalls need for prevention

Source(s)
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

UNECE notes with concern the attacks on industrial facilities in Ukraine since the beginning of the war and calls for a prompt end of the hostilities and the prevention of technological disasters, which could affect the population and environment of Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the risk of industrial accidents has been aggravated significantly. Several fuel depots and gas pipelines have been bombed, with additional reports of burning warehouses storing chemicals. For example, on 27 February, an oil depot in Vasylkiv, near Kyiv, was hit and set ablaze as a result of a missile attack. On 4 March 2022, a combined heat and power plant in Okhtyrka in the Sumy region was destroyed by an airstrike; and on 7 March a fire at the oil depots in Zhytomyr and Chernyakhiv occurred after air strikes. Moreover, in the current circumstances maintaining safety measures and scrutiny at high levels proves challenging for operators and authorities. Even in installations where scrutiny is normally high, safety may now be compromised.

Ukraine is a highly industrialized country, in which – in addition to several nuclear power plants – numerous industrial facilities holding hazardous chemical substances are located, ranging from the agricultural sector to the oil and gas industry, pulp and paper, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, machine-building and mining.

While Ukraine is not a Party to the UNECE Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, the assistance provided under the Convention since 2005 has allowed the country to map and better understand its industrial risks. Among the hazardous facilities in the mining sector, for example, are 465 tailings management facilities (TMFs), which store over 6 billion tons of waste arising from the extraction and processing industries as well as the energy sector.

An accident at a facility holding toxic mining waste or other hazardous substances could have severe and long-term consequences, including on neighbouring and riparian countries, aggravating human suffering and causing serious environmental harm. Prevention efforts need to be placed at the forefront to avert any severe, transboundary and long-term effects of industrial accidents, the remediation of which would necessitate significant efforts in terms of human and financial resources even in times of peace.

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