Russia enters Sweden’s nuclear fuel market

20 December 2016

Swedish utility Vattenfall announced on 14 December that it had signed long-term supply contracts with three nuclear fuel manufacturers, including for the first time Russia's TVEL alongside France’s French Areva and US-based Westinghouse. The agreements, totalling SEK1.2bn ($131m), related to 19 consignments to units 3 and 4 of the Ringhals NPP between 2018 and 2025.

TVEL will account for about a fifth of these. Vattenfall, which operates the four-unit Ringhals plant as well as three-unit Forsmark NPP, said it is committed to having at least two qualified suppliers of nuclear fuel to each of its reactors, adding that fuel accounts for about one-quarter of the total cost of production. Ringhals 1 and all three Forsmark units are boiling water reactors, while Ringhals 2, 3 and 4 are PWRs.

Vattenfall noted that it had "evaluated" TVEL using the same criteria applied to all its suppliers. These include each supplier's commitment to environmental issues, working conditions, employment rights, anti-corruption measures, among others. It noted that its nuclear fuel procurement "complies with the guiding principles" established by the Euratom Supply Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency. In addition, it said, Areva, TVEL and Westinghouse comply with Vattenfall's code of conduct for suppliers.

Per-Olof Nestenborg, head of Vattenfall Nuclear Fuel, said: "With TVEL we now have suppliers on three continents, which reduces our business risks as well as our dependence on a single supplier." He added: "To this end, we have applied procedures such as physical audits, i.e. on-site inspections. TVEL has been very transparent and open at all times and has clear routines and rules. It also has a great interest in being able to access Western markets and is therefore willing to learn and adapt to our European ways of working."

TVEL, a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, said its contract with Vattenfall was signed on 30 November and covers the supply of TVS-K fuel for the Ringhals plant including delivery of commercial reloads of nuclear fuel assemblies starting from 2021. This is the first contract for commercial reloads of TVS-K, TVEL noted, and it opens new opportunities for the company "to broaden the geography of supplies and to enter other markets with pressurised water reactor (PWR) fuel".  

TVEL's president, Yury Olenin, said: "We have been working in cooperation with Vattenfall since 2008. In 2011 the contract for the operation of several Russian lead fuel assemblies was signed. These fuel assemblies continue operating at the third unit of Ringhals NPP; the performance is within the normal design limits with no deviations. Our priority is the highest safety and reliability of the Russian nuclear fuel." TVEL and Vattenfall signed a contract for the delivery of a pilot batch of Russian TVS-K fuel for Ringhals in September 2012.

TVS-K is a 17x17-lattice PWR nuclear fuel assembly developed by TVEL for use in Westinghouse-designed 3- and 4-loop PWRs, drawing on TVEL's experience in the development, manufacture and operation of nuclear fuel for Russian-designed VVER-1000 reactors. In May this year, TVEL and Global Nuclear Fuel Americas (GNF-A) agreed to work together to introduce Russian-designed PWR fuel into the USA. The companies announced a strategic alliance to introduce lead use assemblies of TVEL's TVS-K fuel design in the USA and to seek licensing approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to supply the fuel in reload quantities. GNF-A will provide US-based project management, licensing, quality assurance and engineering services while TVEL will provide TVS-K design expertise, engineering support and initial fabrication of LUAs. Subsequent LUAs are planned to be produced at GNF-A's facility in Wilmington, North Carolina. GNF is GE-led joint venture with Hitachi and Toshiba Corporation.



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