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Soviet Union

Obstacles to Power Supply

In the late 1980s, the Soviet power industry was far behind its planned expansion rate. Technology was not available for on-site burning of low-quality coal, nor for transmitting the power it would generate across the huge distances required. Moreover, the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl' cast doubts on the reliability of the nuclear reactor models chosen to supply power to industrial centers in the European part of the Soviet Union. As in the case of fuels, planners faced long-term, irreversible choices among power sources.

Soviet nuclear and thermoelectric generation has relied heavily on unproven equipment and long-distance delivery systems, whose failure could slow operations in major industries. For example, the Chernobyl' incident resulted in major disruption of the industrial power supply. Although switching techniques could sometimes avoid long-term slowdowns, no permanent alternative power source existed if nuclear power failed in the European part of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, in the late 1980s construction of new nuclear plants fell far behind schedule, and a 30 percent shortfall was expected in 1990 generation. Because hydroelectric stations fell behind in the same period, an added burden fell on thermoelectric facilities. Environmental concerns also caused local opposition to new nuclear and hydroelectric plants during this period.

Data as of May 1989