Ukraine fuel supply between TVEL and Westinghouse

Ukraine continues its efforts to diversify nuclear fuel supply. Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB signed a contract with Energoatom to supply 630 fuel assemblies (estimated to fuel three VVER-1000 reactors for five years) in 2011-2015. Energoatom expects that it will complete licensing of the Westinghouse fuel assemblies in 2010.

The agreement reportedly specifies that the natural uranium for the fuel will be supplied by Ukraine and enrichment services by the multinational center in Angarsk. Westinghouse will manufacture fuel assemblies.

Energoatom representative speaking about the Westinghouse contract said that it will provide Ukraine with important leverage in negotiations with Russia's TVEL, which has been the sole supplier of fuel so far (after winning a tender in 1996). TVEL has been raising price of fresh fuel as well as of the fuel take back recently. The Westinghouse fuel is estimated to be about 25% more expensive than the one supplied by TVEL (up to 40% according to TVEL estimates). However, according to Energoatom estimates, by 2011 there will be no difference in cost.

Russia earlier voiced its disapproval of the Energoatom's intent to diversify its fuel supply and threatened to void warranty on its fuel assemblies if they are irradiated alongside with those supplied by Westinghouse. Although Westinghouse has some experience with fuel assemblies for VVER-100 reactors, they have reportedly proven unreliable, with 51 out of 61 assemblies failing in 2007, according to one source.