Ukraine resumes nuclear fuel trade with Russia

9 August 2016

Ukraine plans to receive 12 deliveries of nuclear fuel from a Russian company and five from Westinghouse in 2016, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Kistion was quoted as saying by the Holos Ukrayiny newspaper on 2 August.  He added that all nuclear fuel for Ukrainian NPPS is imported, 85% from Russia and around 15% from Westinghouse. He noted that nuclear utility Energoatom had signed a contract with Westinghouse in 2014 which is valid until 2020. According to the contract, Westinghouse supplies fuel to three nuclear units with the possibility of extending supplies to six units. A batch of upgraded Wastinghouse fuel (TVS-WR) was loaded at unit 3 of the South Ukraine NPP in May and at unit 5 of Zaporozhe NPP in June.

Meanwhile, a general meeting of shareholders of the International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC), based at Russia’s Angarsk Electro Chemical Combine on 31 July approved a contract with Ukraine’s State Concern Nuclear Fuel for the delivery of the fifth commercial batch of enriched uranium product for Ukraine’s NPPs. Under the contract, SC Nuclear Fuel sells uranium oxide concentrate to IUEC, which enriches it at Russian facilities. IUEC then sells the enriched uranium to Fuel Company TVEL, which, in turn, fabricates fuel assemblies for Ukraine’s NPPs. 

Ukraine has been using IUEC’s services since 2012.  The annual volume of enriched uranium deliveries to Ukraine has remained unchanged at 60,000 SWUs (separate work units), according to IUEC Commercial Director Gleb Yefremov. The IUEC’s core shareholder is Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, which holds a 70% stake. The other shareholders include Kazakhstan’s national atomic company Kazatomprom (10%), the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant Company (10%) and Ukraine’s Nuclear Fuel state company (10%). The participating states have the uranium enrichment quotas proportionate to their holdings in the authorised capital. Enriched uranium commercial deliveries by IUEC to Ukrainian NPPs have exceeded $25m over the past four years.

Russia has also resumed acceptance of used nuclear fuel from Ukraine and the first shipment will take place this summer. In late May, Rosatom stopped taking Ukrinian fuel for storage and processing because Ukraine failed to make the required advance payment after Energoatom’s accounts were frozen. The return of used fuel from Ukraine to Russia is based on an intergovernmental agreement on scientific-technical and economic cooperation signed in 1993. The agreement provides for the delivery to Russia of used Russian-supplied fuel, followed by the return of radioactive waste to Ukraine. Rosatom said that despite the delay they will try to fulfil the annual plan for deliveries to Russia. The first shipment is expected in August with Ukraine paying the market price.

Ukraine has been trying to diversify from Russian nuclear fuel by expanding cooperation with US-based Westinghouse and also planned to build its own central storage for used fuel to reduce dependence on Russia which charges $150-200m annually for the service. However a contract signed with US company Holtec International to build the facility has been repeatedly delayed for technical and financial reasons.

On 4 August, Ukrainian Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Igor Nasalik said Kiev has taken out a $260m loan from the US to finance construction of the storage, which will be sited at Chernobyl NPP. The facility is scheduled to become operational in 2018, which is when Russia will stop taking back Ukrainian fuel and start returning the high level waste.

Holtec was contracted to build the central used fuel storage facility (CSFSF) in Ukraine after winning a tender for the project in 2005. Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, in 2012 adopted a law on the siting, design and construction of the facility. In January this year Holtec and Energoatom signed an amendment to the contract. The CSFSF will receive used nuclear fuel from nine of Ukraine’s 15 reactors - seven VVER-1000s and two VVER-440s - located at Rovno, South Ukraine and Khmelnitsky. The Zaporozhe NPP operates its own on-site used fuel storage facility that was commissioned in 2001.



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