17 Mar 2023 13:50

Ukraine and Westinghouse aim to become nuclear fuel suppliers for Europe - energy minister

MOSCOW. March 17 (Interfax) - Ukraine may become a supplier of nuclear fuel, produced using the Westinghouse company's technology, to European countries in the future, Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said on March 16 during a visit to a Ukrainian enterprise which plans to start making fuel assemblies for Russian-designed VVER-1000 and VVER-440 reactors.

"After stopping to buy Russian nuclear fuel, Ukraine has switched its nuclear power units to nuclear fuel from the American manufacturer Westinghouse. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, and Bulgaria have also expressed a desire to make this transition. And in the future, Ukraine may become a supplier of nuclear fuel to these countries," Ukrainian media quoted Galushchenko as saying in a statement.

At the first stage of establishing the production of Westinghouse-type fuel assemblies, the Ukrainian enterprise plans within the next two years to start making their individual components, the minister said. In particular, licensing is planned to be completed in 2023, and commercial production of fuel cartridge heads is expected to start in 2024. These components will be used to produce nuclear fuel for Energoatom's needs at the Westinghouse plant in Vesteras, Sweden.

Energoatom president Pyotr Kotin, for his part, said that the company plans to launch its own production of nuclear fuel in three years.

"We plan that in three years we will reach the full cycle of nuclear fuel production in Ukraine. The year of 2026 is the date when we will be able to fully produce our Ukrainian fuel from components made here as well. As regards elements that we cannot produce, we will buy them from partners," Kotin said.

He also underscored the importance of making nuclear fuel for VVER-400 reactors, as this fuel was produced only by Russia previously.

Presently, Europe has 17 VVER-400 reactors that have no alternative to Russian fuel for now, and, after launching the production of fuel assemblies for VVER-1000 reactors, Ukraine will also start to make fuel for VVER-440 reactors.

Energoatom together with its strategic partner Westinghouse will subsequently be able to become an alternative supplier of nuclear fuel for other European countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, and Bulgaria, which use Soviet-type reactors, Kotin said.

Energoatom and Westinghouse began cooperating in nuclear fuel production in August 2018, when the U.S. company started to qualify Energoatom's separate subdivision as a supplier of top and bottom nozzles for the company's fuel assemblies. The production of fuel assemblies for Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB was organized in 2019-2020.

In April 2022, the first batch top nozzle components was made and sent to Westinghouse for quality verification.

Energoatom and Westinghouse signed an agreement on June 2, 2022 to supply nuclear fuel to all Ukrainian NPPs.