KYIV – A Japanese-American firm is ending Russia’s monopoly on supplying fuel to Ukraine’s key nuclear power industry.
In 2015, Russia supplied 95 percent of the fuel by value. In the first 10 months of 2016, Russia’s share fell to 74 percent. Westinghouse Electric Corp. supplied 26 percent. Westinghouse is based in the U.S. and is majority owned by Japan’s Toshiba Group.
To expand supplies to the Ukraine market in 2017, Westinghouse completed last fall a multi-million dollar expansion plan to its Swedish fuel plant, located in Västerås, 100 km west of Stockholm. Last year, fuel from this plant went to two of Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors, at the nuclear power plants South Ukraine and Zaporizhia, the largest power plant in Europe. Per ton of fuel, Ukraine paid 33% less for its Westinghouse fuel than its Russian equivalent.
Ukraine depends on nuclear power for about half of its electricity. All of the nation’s 15 reactors are of the VVER type, a safer, post-Chernobyl design.
As with much of the former Soviet republic’s economy, Ukraine’s energy sector was designed to rely on Russia. Ukraine has some of Europe’s largest uranium deposits. But it lacks the facilities necessary to refine ore to fuel. Ukraine sends the uranium and zirconium it mines to Russia for further processing.
After a trip to Washington last August, Ukrainian Energy Minister Ihor Nasalyk said Westinghouse was interested in building a nuclear fuel plant in Ukraine. Westinghouse has not confirmed this.
Last month, Nasalyk told press of new plans for building a fuel fabrication plant. In addition to Westinghouse, he said, a Chinese and a French company are interested in competing for the project.
The idea of producing nuclear fuel domestically is not new. In a 2009 competition to build a nuclear fuel plant in Ukraine, the Russian state-owned nuclear fuel company TVEL beat out Westinghouse. Site work began in 2012, but was halted due to a disagreement over the contract terms in 2014. Work was not resumed as Ukraine began to look for partners beyond Russia.
TVEL, based in Moscow, is the Russian supplier of fuel to Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.
Another clouded joint venture with Russia, the completion of the third and fourth reactors at the Khmelnytsky nuclear power plant, could also turn into an opportunity for Western companies. After terminating an agreement late May with a Russian company, Energoatom’s president said his company was looking for new partners. Several have proposed linking nuclear power production at Khmelnytsky with the European grid in Poland, 250 km to the west.
Ukraine’s Government continues to emphasize the strategic importance of achieving energy independence by 2020. But Ukraine consumes almost twice the energy per unit of GDP of Germany. Invigorating Ukraine’s nuclear industry with new American, European, or Asian partners may reduce reliance on Russian nuclear fuel and technology.
For comments and story tips, please email UBJ IT Correspondent Harvey Hinman at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Cooling towers of Rivne Nuclear Power Plant stand in Varash, 100 km south of the Belarus border. (Credit: UNIAN Alexander Sinitsa)Inside Photo: Technician at control panel for South Ukraine, one of Ukraine’s four power plants and location of three 1980s-era nuclear reactors. (Credit: UNIAN Yevgeniy Maloletka)
Posted Jan. 19, 2017