- Edited By Chris Reed -
According to news reports, Ukraine's cabinet approved the Ministry of Fuel and Energy's proposal to construct the nuclear fuel plant at a meeting on 22 September, the country's national news agency Ukrinform reported.
TVEL was said to have won the tender as, unlike the other bidder Westinghouse, it had expressed willingness to invest its own money in the construction of the plant. The cost of constructing the fuel plant is put at some $212 million.
Vitaliy Lukianenko, the prime minister's press secretary, noted, "TVEL was unanimously supported during a competition for choosing the company to build the plant."
A condition of the tender is that Ukraine holds a controlling stake in the joint venture company that is to be established to manage the plant, despite TVEL likely to provide the majority of the funds to construct it. Another condition is the requirement for the transfer of technology for the manufacture of fuel assemblies under a non-exclusive licence by 2020 for reactors both in Ukraine and abroad.
According to Yuriy Nedashkovsky, president of national electricity generator Energoatom, nuclear fuel fabrication could start at the new plant in 2013. Initial production capacity of the plant will be 200 tonnes of uranium equivalent (tUe) per year of fuel rods and assemblies. In 2017, capacity to manufacture fuel pellets is set to increase to 400 tUe, while in 2020 the plant will be able to produce 400 tUe of fuel rods and assemblies.
Ukraine has 15 nuclear power reactors at four nuclear power plants (Khmelnitski, Rovno, South Ukraine and Zaporozhe), all operated by Energoatom. All the units are Russian VVER types, two being 440 MWe V-312 models and the rest the larger 1000 MWe units - two early models and the others V-320s. In 2009, almost half of Ukraine's electricity was produced by its nuclear plants.
In common with other VVER reactors, all of Ukraine's are routinely supplied with fuel by TVEL, although trials of 42 Westinghouse fuel assemblies are ongoing at the three South Ukraine units. This is taking place on an experimental basis, with final regulatory approval for the use of Westinghouse-supplied fuel outstanding.
Efforts to establish fuel manufacturing in Ukraine are an extension of this bid to break TVEL's technological monopoly on nuclear fuel supply. In addition to nuclear services, Ukraine also depends on Russia for much oil and gas, supplies of which have twice been cut off in a long-running payment dispute. Ukraine is able to mitigate this by supplying about 30% of the uranium that goes as the raw material for nuclear fuel. It also produces the zirconium alloys needed for fuel elements, but uranium enrichment and manufacture of finished fuel assemblies takes place in Russia.