Nuclear strategy develops in Ukraine

06 August 2010

Ukraine is weighing up two options for the future of its nuclear fuel cycle among various cooperative arrangements with Russia.


Khmelnitsky 3 (EnergoAtom)
Seventy-five percent of Khmelnitsky 3.
The rest could be there by 2016
The International Enrichment Centre project, begun in early 2007 by Russia and Kazakhstan, represents a new way that Ukraine might source its nuclear fuel to avoid direct reliance on Russian firms. Legal arrangements for Ukraine to take an equity stake are complete, said Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, and Ukraine has declared itself willing to join in a number of protocols and cooperation statements since 2007.


In the meantime, longstanding ambitions in Ukraine to have nuclear fuel production capability within its own borders have progressed. The country's officials have now received bids from both Russia's TVEL and US-based Westinghouse for a fuel manufacturing facility. This follows a tender quickly issued earlier this year after the election of President Viktor Yanukovych.


In Soviet times some 16 reactors were built in Ukraine. Three operational units were eventually closed as a result of the 1986 accident that destroyed Chernobyl 4, leaving only VVER pressurized water reactors in operation. Three such units have been completed since the break-up of the Soviet Union and 15 units now meet almost half of electricity demand.


In common with other VVER reactors, all of Ukraine's are routinely supplied with fuel by TVEL, although trials of 42 Westinghouse fuel assemblies are ongoing at the three South Ukraine units. This is taking place on an experimental basis, with final regulatory approval for the use of Westinghouse-supplied fuel outstanding.


Efforts to establish fuel manufactuing in Ukraine are an extension of this bid to break TVEL's technological monopoly on nuclear fuel supply. In addition to nuclear services, Ukraine also depends on Russia for much oil and gas, supplies of which have twice been cut off in a long-running payment dispute. Ukraine is able to mitigate this by supplying about 30% of the uranium that goes as the raw material for nuclear fuel.


As talks take place on deeper nuclear cooperation between Ukraine and Russia - including on a new standardized VVER reactor (VVER-1100/392) - another major development should be the completion of two more reactors begun in Soviet times.


The third and fourth VVER-1000 reactors at Khmelnitsky remain 75% and 28% complete and an intergovernmental agreement to finish these was signed one month ago. Now it is reported that a Russian-backed financial package for the project is nearing readiness. Work could begin on the units in 2011 and 2012 to see them come online in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News