Ukrainian nuclear utility Energoatom and Japan’s Toshiba on 25 October signed a memorandum of understanding and development of cooperation on the modernisation of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, according to Energoatom’s press service.
The bilateral memorandum was signed by Energoatom President Yuri Nedashkovsky and Vice President of Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation Goro Janas. The document covers cooperation to increase the power, efficiency and safety of Ukraine’s nuclear plants by upgrading turbine island equipment. “We are convinced that our joint work will not only contribute to increasing the capacity of Ukrainian NPPs but will also provide an additional impetus for the development of domestic technologies NPPs," Nedashkovsky noted.
A steering committee is to be set up, comprising two co-chairs (one representative from each side) and members to develop cooperation on any relevant commercial transactions, such as an agreement to supply equipment. The MOU also aims to expand collaboration in the long-term service of installed equipment at nuclear power plants and to introduce the latest "technical and financial solutions". Energoatom operates Ukraine's four nuclear plants at Zaporozhe, Rovno, South Ukraine and Khmelnitsky with a total capacity of 13835MWe. The 15 reactors at these plants include 13 VVER-1000s and two VVER-440s.
The Energy Strategy of Ukraine for the period to 2035 provides for an increase in the share of nuclear generation in the energy balance. From 2021 Ukraine plans to begin work on completing the construction of the third and fourth units at the Khmelnitsky NPP. The export of electricity will finance the work as part of the Ukraine-EU Energy Grid project to be implemented by Energoatom, Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman told parliament on 23 October. "We are working on a European energy bridge, which will give us that opportunity, and I think that we will be able to resume construction of the two units from 2021," he said. "This is our plan, we are systematically engaged in this, and we will do everything to ensure that nuclear energy is safe, and its capacity is sufficient not only to provide for Ukraine but also to export electricity, which will make the economy of our country more sustainable," he added.
Khmelnitsky currently has two operating units with a nominal capacity of Russian designed VVER-1000/V-392B reactors. Unit 1 was commissioned in 1987 and unit 2 in 2004. Khmelnitsky 3&4 were 75% and 28% complete when work stopped in 1990. An international tender in 2008 to complete the units was won by Russia’s Atomstroyexport (part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom), and an intergovernmental agreement with Russia was signed in June 2010 followed in February 2011 by a framework contract with Atomstroyexport to complete them as AES-92 VVER-1000/V-392B reactor plants. Under the intergovernmental agreement, 85% of the estimated UAH40bn ($4.4bn) project would be financed through a Russian loan for 85% of the cost, with 15% funding coming from Ukraine. In July 2012 the government confirmed the feasibility, costings and timing of the project (by then $4.9bn) and at the end of 2013, the energy minister said construction might resume in 2015. However, following the change of government in Ukraine in 2014, the government revoked the intergovernmental agreement with Russia and energy ministry suggested that the Czech company Skoda JS should take over the contract from Atomstroyexport. After several years of confusion, Energoatom said in July that Skoda had modified the design and would supply both engineering services as well as many of the components for the two units, with overall 70% Ukrainian content. They are now expected online in 2023 and 2025, using Westinghouse fuel.
Plans to increase use of Westinghouse fuel
Several other Ukrainian reactors are now using some Westinghouse fuel as part of a policy to reduce the dependence on Russian fuel company Tvel. While Tvel remains the main supplier of fuel for Ukrainian reactors, the Energy Ministry says Westinghouse fuel is currently used at South Ukraine 3 and Zaporozhe 5. In December 2016, Westinghouse TVS-WR fuel also was loaded into South Ukraine 2. Problems, which arose in 2012, when the use of Westinghouse fuel resulted in damage at South Ukraine 2, have since been resolved by a redesign of Westinghouse assemblies. Energoatom plans in 2018 to switch South Ukraine 3 entirely to the use of Westinghouse fuel and also preparing to use it at Zaporozhe 3. In July, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate also agreed to the possibility of using Westinghouse fuel at Zaporozhe 1 and 4.
Ukraine does not intend to abandon the use of Russian nuclear fuel altogether in favour of Westinghouse fuel, Ukrainian Internet publication Apostrof reported on 24 October, citing the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy. The Ministry of Energy, in an official response to Apostrof, said that the increased use of American nuclear fuel at Ukraine's reactors requires a number of organisational and technical measures. These include modernisation of the core monitoring system, specialised transport and technical equipment, and the development of justifications for the safe operation of fuel.
Energoatom this year plans to buy 17 batches of nuclear fuel for its reactors, First Vice President of Energoatom Oleksandr Shavlakov said on 23 October. This includes 11 batches of fuel from Russia (nine for VVER-1000 reactors and two for VVER-440 reactors) and six batches from Westinghouse. So far five batches have been received from each supplier. However, Shavlakov noted that Westinghouse would be able to provide fuel to 13 of Ukraine’s reactors (VVER-1000 units) in the event of a termination of supplies from Russia. He said that Westinghouse and European companies were also working to develop a Western-design VVER-440 fuel assembly. “There is an agreement in case of force majeure to replace the Russian manufacturer completely," he said. Westinghouse (a subsidiary of Toshiba) has given assurances that its fuel supplies will not be affected by its bankruptcy filing last March.
Photo: Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Yuri Nedashkovsky, President of Energoatom, and Goro Yanase, Vice President of Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation (Credit: Energoatom)