Framatome and Slovenské elektrárne to cooperate on new VVER fuel

01 June 2023

France's Framatome and Slovakia's Slovenské elektrárne have signed a memorandum of understanding on further developing their long-term relations, and will also work together on the development of a "100% European" nuclear fuel for VVER-440 pressurised water reactors.

The signing ceremony took place in Bratislava (Image: Framatome)

Framatome says that it has been asked by all European VVER operating utilities - including Slovenské elektrárne - "to contribute to the development of a sovereign European fuel solution that avoids any disruption in critical services and reduces dependence on European imports".

It says: "In the short term, Framatome is setting up its European fuel manufacturing facilities and supply chain operations based on the proven, reliable and efficient incumbent fuel used by the European VVER reactors. This does not require any modification to the reactor or licensing processes and contributes to a stock of European components from the licensed and qualified design. In parallel, for the mid-term, Framatome is progressing on the development of a fully European sovereign nuclear fuel product with the support and cooperation of the European VVER utilities."

There are currently four VVER-1000 reactors operating in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and 14 VVER-440 units in Slovakia, Hungary, Finland and the Czech Republic.

Branislav Strýček, CEO of Slovenské elektrárne, said: "Nuclear power plants in Slovakia are key pillars of our national energy security. I consider diversification of nuclear fuel supply for stable and secure operation of the Bohunice and Mochovce power plants to be one of our main tasks. I am very pleased that we have teamed up with Framatome on this project in cooperation with other European operators of VVER-440 reactors."

The MoU was signed during a visit and meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Slovakia's President Zuzana Čaputová and it sets the basis for future strategy and further discussion of extending the two companies' links in areas including nuclear operations and maintenance, safety instrumentation and control and cybersecurity, as well as examining the feasibility of nuclear medicine and radioisotope production in Slovakia.

Bernard Fontana, CEO of Framatome, said: “Framatome is fully engaged in supporting the Slovak Republic nuclear industry and energy policy. This agreement ... further demonstrates our will to pursue this strong cooperation that contributes to Slovakia’s national security and diversification of supply for their VVER plant. Our customers count on our robust and reliable expertise, experience and integrated supply chain - especially in the area of nuclear fuel."

Framatome already has about 100 staff working in Slovakia and, in addition to other long-standing links, Framatome supplied the safety instrumentation and control system for Mochovce units 3 and 4.

In recent years, especially since the war with Ukaine began, nuclear power operators in EU countries who had previously relied on Russian-supplied fuel have sought alternative suppliers. Bulgaria's Kozloduy signed agreements at the end of last year and the beginning of 2023 which will see it replacing its Russian supplier with fuel from Framatome and from Westinghouse.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News