Westinghouse 'significantly' expands fuel supply in Ukraine

31 December 2014

Westinghouse and Energoatom have agreed "to significantly increase" nuclear fuel deliveries to Ukrainian nuclear power plants until 2020.

In a statement yesterday, Westinghouse said this increased cooperation will bring diversification and security of nuclear fuel supplies for Ukraine's reactor fleet.

US-based Westinghouse, which is majority-owned by Japan's Toshiba, has been working in the Ukrainian market since 2003. Its fuel is operating at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant "without any defects in performance", Westinghouse said in the same statement.

"We expect that with continued superior results and competitive efficiency of our fuel design, Westinghouse will continue to grow its share of the Ukrainian nuclear fuel market," said Yves Brachet, Westinghouse president for Europe, Middle East and Africa. "Westinghouse looks forward to providing a full range of products and services to Ukraine and the global VVER market with proven experience in digital controls, fuel, refueling, inspection services and plant upgrades and refurbishments."

Westinghouse has ten nuclear fuel manufacturing locations around the world, including two sites in Europe - Springfields Fuels Limited in Preston, in the UK, and Westinghouse Electric Sweden in Västerås.

Established in 1996, state-run Energoatom operates all of Ukraine's 15 nuclear power reactors.

Russian statement

Referring to the new agreement Energoatom and Westinghouse signed in Brussels, Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told reporters in Kiev yesterday that Ukraine is "gradually moving from dependence on Russia towards energy independence."

Russia's foreign ministry issued a statement in response, saying that it was "alarmed" by news of the contract. Westinghouse "has for many years been attempting to gain a foothold in the market of nuclear fuel for nuclear reactors of Soviet-designed VVER-1000," the ministry said.

"Of particular concern is the fact that all this is happening against the backdrop of an unstable situation in Ukraine, in an environment where political engagement takes precedence over the requirements of nuclear safety, and the country's ability to respond to emergencies is severely limited," according to the ministry’s statement. "It seems that the authorities in Kiev have not learned the lessons of the Chernobyl tragedy about a responsible and science-based approach to the use of nuclear energy."

Nuclear safety "is being used for political ambition," it said. "The consequences of possible accidents and incidents and the responsibility for them lie entirely with the leadership of Ukraine and the US fuel supplier."

In response, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRC) issued a statement yesterday, saying that "the introduction of modifications to fuel used in the country's nuclear power plants is in line with clearly regulated legal documents on nuclear and radiation safety that are carefully followed at all stages, from the fuel's conceptual design to putting it into operation."

The use of Westinghouse fuel at unit 3 of South Ukrainian nuclear power plant has presented no problems, it added.

Zaporozhe rumours

There have also been unsubstantiated reports of a radioactive leak at the Zaporozhe nuclear power plant. LifeNews claimed to have seen an internal document by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine rejecting an earlier assessment by the plant's authorities that radiation levels at the facility are equal to the natural background following a recent incident at unit 6. The news agency said that levels of radiation at the plant rose by up to 16.8 times the legally permitted norm.

Information from the plant and regulator indicate that unit 6 was disconnected from the grid early on 28 December due to a problem affecting the function of its turbine and the reactor was brought down to 40% operational capacity. The fault was identified and fixed, and the unit was re-connected to the grid the same day. The unit is now running at full power.

SNRC today refuted claims that radiation levels at the plant were above normal. "The radiation situation at the Zaporozhe site and beyond hasn't changed and remains within the set limits. Physical protection is maintained in normal mode." 

The International Atomic Energy Agency today tweeted that SNRC had informed the Vienna-based agency that there had been "no violations of safe limits and conditions" at the nuclear power plant. The power plant's website shows radiation readings from the plant and surrounding area, which today indicated normal conditions.

Westinghouse rejected reports by several Russian-language news agencies that implied a link between the supposed incident and the company's fuel.

"There is currently no Westinghouse fuel operating in any of the six 1000 MWe Russian type VVER reactors at the Zaporozhe nuclear power plant, which to our knowledge is fueled only with fuel supplied by the Russian Company TVEL," Westinghouse spokesman Hans Korteweg told World Nuclear News today. "Westinghouse fuel is however operating safely and efficiently at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant without any defects in performance. We cannot speak further to the safety or performance of the operations at the Zaporozhe nuclear power plant."

TVEL is the nuclear fuel manufacturing subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News