U.S. Moves In On Russia’s Nuclear Energy Turf In Ukraine

  • Date: 01/05/14
  • Evan Ostryzniuk, Kyiv Post

Ukraine’s energy dependence on Russia subsided yet again this month when state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom on April 11 concluded a deal with America’s Westinghouse to supply fuel rods until 2020.

The Southern Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant
The agreement came more than two weeks before Ukraine signed a memorandum with Slovakia for the supply of up to 8 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year to replace Russian blue fuel imports. The deal also comes on the heels of a scandal involving dented rods, competing interests and conflicting evidence.

Russia has been the long-time monopoly supplier of nuclear fuel to Ukraine where roughly half the electricity is generated by nuclear power plants. TVEL, the Russian supplier, saw a challenger in 2011, when Westinghouse Electric Company was contracted by Energoatom to provide fuel to three of the country’s 15 reactors over five years in a deal experts say was worth over $100 million.

The Southern Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant (SUNPP) was using the Westinghouse TVS-W type fuel rod in tandem with Russian TVEL rods. However, according to Westinghouse, as reported by Kyiv Post on July 4, 2013, the Russian rods damaged the American ones during operations because the Russian rods’ “fuel bow” exceeded the technical norm. In other words, they were moving around too much and would repeatedly strike the neighboring American rods.

After a flurry of accusations, Westinghouse agreed to modify their rods for Ukrainian use, so that by April 4 the company could announce that it should resume the Energoatom contract. In early May, Westinghouse plans to complete the entire cycle test of modified TVS-W rods, followed by Energoatom tests.  Today, SUNPP uses 66 Westinghouse TVS-W type nuclear fuel rods and 97 Russian TVEL rods.

As per the amended contract, in December 2014-January 2015 during scheduled maintenance the first batch of the modified rods will be loaded into the third unit of the SUNPP for a test period to collect data for approval by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate. If all goes well, the rods can then enter regular usage.

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