Good prospects for Ukraine's nuclear fuel future

15 February 2010

Victor Yanukovych's win of the presidential elections in Ukraine on 7 February bodes well for Ukraine's ambitions as a nuclear fuel producer.


Victor Yanukovych (
Victor Yanukovych (Image:
Energy sector participants, governmental analysts and bankers have stated that the elections and the international political lobbying that goes with it are likely to strengthen relations with Russia, benefiting the energy sector as a whole.


Acting between the first and second rounds of voting to avoid a possible political bias, Yuriy Prodan, minister of fuel and energy, moved to invite Russia's TVEL and US Westinghouse to bid to become a technology supplier and partner in the construction of a new nuclear fuel plant.


"The commission has developed tender proposals and sent them to the companies dealing with the technology of fuel element production for our reactors," Prodan has said during a trip to the Zhytomyr region.


Earlier, the then Ukrainian president Viktor Yuschenko put into effect a decision of the National Security and Defence Council under which the Fuel Ministry took on the obligation to conduct the tender, matching the council's criteria and aiming to complete the tender by 1 April 2010.


"Until now Ukraine traded raw materials with Russia and, in the context of nuclear power, uranium. There is a balance of need for nuclear fuel storage against gas dependence, so the new President will need to consider this," said Andrew Wilson, EU neighbourhood analyst at the European Council on Foreign relations.


"However, any new deals [for fuel cycle facilities] may also depend on how long it takes for the new president to set up a new government, said Vladimir Sayenko, a partner in the Kyiv-based law firm of Sayenko Kharenko.


"If Yanukovych moves quickly to restructure the parliament, the new government could be in place in March or April but if not, there would have to be new elections in May with a new government coming to place late summer or early fall," said Adrian Karatnicky, managing partner at Myrmidon Group and Ukraine expert with the Atlantic Council.  "Yanukovych is likely to dissolve parliament and therefore there will be another period where political initiatives will be difficult."


Should Yanukovych win, he will also face a strong and charismatic opponent in presidential candidate and still prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and would have to act fast to get a government in place by spring, he said. 


Ukraine has had uranium mining activity since 1948 and can supply about 30% of its own needs. It also produces the zirconium alloys needed for fuel elements, but uranium enrichment and manufacture of finished fuel assemblies takes place in Russia.


In a bid to find an alternative supplier, Ukraine has worked with Westinghouse on a program to test batches of their fuel assemblies. In mid-2009 a batch of 42 assemblies began a three-year trial.


By Rumyana Vakarelska

for World Nuclear News