Ukraine tries to diversify fuel supply

Confronted with a substantial increase in the price of fresh fuel supplied by Russia, Ukraine is trying to create a reserve of fuel for its nuclear stations and to diversify the fuel supply. Energoatom, the Ukrainian operator of nuclear plants, got an approval from the government to seek a contract with Westinghouse to supply fuel for Ukrainian VVER reactors starting in 2010. (Earlier reports indicated that Ukraine would like Westinghouse to supply fuel for three of its four VVERs.)

Licensing of Westinghouse fuel elements was underway in 1996-2003 with U.S. assistance, but then was discontinued. The process was restarted in 2005, when Energoatom placed 6 fuel assemblies into 3rd reactor of the Yuzhno-Ukrainskaya power plant. Additional 42 assemblies are expected to be loaded in the reactor in 2009.

TVEL, which apparently did not welcome this development, warned Ukraine that it would void its warranty on fuel elements if they were irradiated alongside the U.S. ones. TVEL representative quoted the experience of the Temelin plant, which switched to the Westinghouse fuel only to switch back.

At the same time, Ukraine and TVEL have been discussing a possibility of setting up a joint fuel fabrication facility in Ukraine.