Ukrainian reactors operate through turmoil

06 March 2014

UPDATED This article was updated on 7 March to indicate that the ban on the transportation of nuclear fuel across Ukraine had been lifted.

Ukraine's nuclear energy plants have operated continuously during the recent political crisis in the country, operator Energoatom has reported. However, future fuel supplies for the plants are uncertain.

Zaporizhzhya - 460 (Energoatom)
The six-unit Zaporozhe plant (Image: Energoatom)

Ukraine has 15 nuclear power reactors at four sites (Khmelnitsky, Rovno, South Ukraine and Zaporozhe), all operated by Energoatom. All the units are Russian VVER types, two being 440 MWe models and the rest larger 1000 MWe units. Between them, the plants provide almost half of the country's electricity. 

According Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (SNRI), 12 of the country's nuclear power reactors are currently in operation, while three are in planned maintenance and refuelling outages.

Energoatom said that its nuclear plants are operating "in normal mode," though physical security at the plants had been stepped up by both its own security staff and by military units of the interior ministry.

Fuel supplies

Westinghouse fuel trials

As part of a longstanding US-sponsored initiative for energy independence, Westinghouse supplied nuclear fuel assemblies for trial use at the South Ukraine plant between 2005 and 2009.

However, these trials were deemed unsuccessful, with Energoatom claiming manufacturing defects in the fuel led to a lengthy unscheduled outage at two of the units, while Westinghouse said that errors had been made during fuel loading.

Energoatom noted that the fuel supply for its reactors has been secured for the "near future" and that it expects existing fuel supply contracts to be fulfilled. Dmitry Rogozin, Russian deputy prime minister, was cited by Interfax as saying, "The Ukrainian nuclear power plants have fuel reserves for March and April."

According to an RIA Novosti report, Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer TVEL has already received advanced payments for four batches of nuclear fuel scheduled to be delivered to Ukrainian plants over the coming months. However deliveries may be disrupted as a result of a ban that was imposed on the transportation of nuclear fuel across Ukraine.

This ban, however, was reportedly lifted by SNRI on 6 March. 

Russia to fulfil European contracts

TVEL said that it aims to provide uninterrupted supply of fuel for other European nuclear power reactors. The company said that, despite the ban on shipments through Ukraine, it will use alternative routes and different shipping methods, such as air transport, to fulfil its contractual obligations.

New Energoatom president

Ukraine's cabinet has appointed Yuri Nedashkovskaya as the new president of Energoatom. He has held the position twice before, as well as being the country's deputy energy minister.

Nedashkovskaya takes over from Nikita Konstantinov who has held the position since last June.

Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom was cited by Interfax as saying that a shipment of fuel to a Slovakian nuclear power plant will be made by air "as early as next week." The Rosatom subsidiary provides fuel for Russian-supplied plants in Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia.

The executive director of Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power plant Ivan Genov has stated, "Events in Ukraine will not affect in any way either supplies of fresh fuel to Kozloduy or shipment of spent fuel." He added, "In such circumstances we have an option of shipping fuel assemblies from Russia by an airplane. This alternative has already been tested." However, Genov noted that the two operating units at Kozloduy can operate until early 2015 using available fuel stocks.

A fuel cycle plant is currently under construction near the village of Smoline in central Ukraine as a joint venture between TVEL and the Ukrainian state nuclear fuel company. The plant will produce fuel for VVER-1000 reactors. It is being built in two stages, with the first stage, capable of producing up to 800 fuel assemblies per year, completed in 2015. Construction is planned to begin on a second stage in 2016, for completion in 2020.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News