Skip to comments.UKRAINE: Westinghouse chips away at Russian nuclear fuel monopoly in Ukraine
Posted on 06/17/2014 5:19:41 PM PDT by UMCRevMom@aol.com
The Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Mykolaiv Oblast © Courtesy
During a routine inspection of the Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine's Mykolaiv Oblast in 2012, the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation discovered that the plants fuel assemblies (which provide support for nuclear rods in the plants reactor) were scratched, and therefore unusable.
Westinghouse Electric, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based producer of the fuel assemblies, protested the Inspectorates decision, arguing that Russian fuel (produced by state-owned nuclear power company TVEL) was chaffing, and thereby permanently damaging their fuel assemblies.
Despite Westinghouses protestations, regulators banned the use of the companys fuel assemblies in Ukrainian plants, disrupting a contract between Westinghouse and the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine (Energoatom) signed in 2008, and making TVEL the sole supplier of nuclear fuel to Ukraine.
Considering the lack of evidence to support the regulators claims, the decision seems likely to have been politically motivated. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovychs administration was famously cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and may have been interested in preserving TVELs nuclear fuel monopoly, experts say.
That in April, less than two months after Yanukovychs fall from power, Energoatom decided to extend its contract with Westinghouse to provide fuel to Ukraines nuclear power plants, suggests that the regulators claims may have been falsified.
Serhiy Bozhko, the Head of the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation said in a June 12 interview with news website Liga Biznes that the problems with Westinghouses fuel assemblies were related to the fuel loading, not to their use.
The new contract, which extends the deal between Energoatom and Westinghouse until 2020, stipulates that Westinghouse provide fuel for two of Ukraines 15 reactors each year, with the possibility of providing fuel for more in the future.
The deal, which is rumored to be worth $100 million, gives Westinghouse an opportunity to use a new fuel assembly designed in January 2015, and appears to be an important step towards energy security for Ukraine.
Michael Kirst, Westinghouses Vice President for Strategy and External Relations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, told the Kyiv Post on June 17 that the deal is important because it undermines TVELs monopoly in Ukraine, which poses a threat to the countrys energy independence.
Half of Ukraines electricity comes from nuclear power. Because Ukraines plants are powered by Russian fuel produced by a state-owned company, politics could easily become intertwined with nuclear energy, as it has with natural gas.
If several reactors are not running, the whole Ukrainian grid is destabilized. You could have rolling blackouts, warns Kirst.
Although the gas disputes are currently grabbing headlines, he says, the Ukrainian government is going to have to come to grips with the need to secure nuclear energy.
Kirst believes that Kyivs protracted gas dispute with Moscow may force Ukraines leaders to do just that.
The gas crisis is going to generate lots of different decisions, one of which will presumably be an entire portfolio review of energy security, writ large. Gas is only one part of the solution to diversify and secure. Ignoring [Nuclear power] would be mistake, he said.
Westinghouse was able to enter the Ukrainian nuclear power industry in part because of investment from the U.S. government, which paid for the design, manufacture, and delivery of fuel to be used in Russian reactors in Central and Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This gave countries with Russian reactors an alternative to Russian fuel, a move designed to provide energy security on the continent.
American investment, Kirst says, was one of the reasons Westinghouse has remained in Ukraine, despite difficulties with the government, and a turbulent business environment.
We felt that there was a real corporate obligation to try to stick with it to allow Ukraine and other countries to have this opportunity if and when they needed it, he said. And of course today seems to represent that day when they need it.
Kyiv Post Staff Writer Isaac Webb can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @isaacdwebb.
It is standard practice for the buyer to be at the W facility when the fuel rods are manufactured and to sign off on the condition when shipped and received.
Sounds good to me.. I’m all for Westinghouse standing by Ukraine
Nice. Ukraine is capable to replace partners for imports. Would Westinghouse or someone else buy a thing from Ukraine?
I think you missed this: “The new contract, which extends the deal between Energoatom and Westinghouse until 2020, stipulates that Westinghouse provide fuel for two of Ukraines 15 reactors each year, with the possibility of providing fuel for more in the future.
The deal, which is rumored to be worth $100 million, gives Westinghouse an opportunity to use a new fuel assembly designed in January 2015, and appears to be an important step towards energy security for Ukraine.”
Westinghouse is sticking with the NEW UKRAINE government & they RENEWED their contract.