Westinghouse looks to expand its VVER fuel facility

29 April 2016

Westinghouse Electric Company on 28 April announced the expansion of its Nuclear Fuel Factory in Västerås, Sweden, in response to growing demand for nuclear fuel supply diversification for VVER-1000 reactors in Europe (namely Ukraine). The investment finances additional production facilities, fuel engineering work, as well as the procurement of additional process and assembly equipment for manufacturing the fuel. The new facilities were officially inaugurated by José Emeterio Gutiérrez, Westinghouse senior vice president for Nuclear Fuel and Components Manufacturing in the presence of representatives from the Västerås Municipality, local business community and the Ukrainian Embassy to Sweden.

In 2016 Westinghouse will deliver five reloads to the South Ukraine and Zaporizhia NPPs, a Westinghouse statement said. In December 2014 Westinghouse and Ukrainian nuclear utility Energoatom completed a fuel supply contract extension for its VVER-1000 reactors. Recent inspections in Ukraine have reportedly demonstrated that Westinghouse fuel performs safely and efficiently and to specification, despite earlier trials that caused reactor damage. In February 2016 the first batch of nuclear fuel, produced in Sweden was delivered to the Zaporizhia and following regulatory approval will be loaded into unit 5 in May.

Energoatom and Westinghouse began the project to qualify Westinghouse fuel for use in Soviet-design VVERs in 2000. In March 2008, Westinghouse signed a commercial contract with Energoatom to provide in 2011-2015 fuel for three to six Ukrainian nuclear units, assuming qualification of the fuel was completed. However the project was frozen in 2009 as a result of reactor damage at South Ukraine NPP. Westinghouse subsequently redesigned the fuel and the project was reactivated following the change of government in Ukraine in 2014.

Currently Russia still supplies fuel for most of Ukraine's 15 operating reactors. According to the State Statistics Service, Ukraine in 2015, bought nuclear fuel from Russia worth $610.9m and from Sweden worth $ 32.7m. However, Energy and Coal Industry Minister Igor Nosalik recently announced plans to increase Westinghouse fuel supplies to Ukraine by 30%. The EU is supporting a project to diversify fuel supplies to reactors of Russian design.

Over 60% of the 131 nuclear power units operating in the European Union (EU) are based on Westinghouse technology. Five countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia) operate VVER-design reactors (four VVER-1000 and 14 VVER-440 type reactors), which provide up to 52% of total electricity in those states. These countries currently receive all their fuel supplies from Russia.

However, in February Czech utility CEZ signed a contract for a pilot batch of Westinghouse fuel for its Temelin NPP, which provides for the delivery of six fuel assemblies. These will be tested gradually over two years to ensure secure inter-operability with the existing Russian-supplied fuel. An earlier contract to supply of Westinghouse fuel to Temelin was curtailed in 2009 following some reactor damage.



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