Westinghouse Electric Company has signed a contract with Ukrainian nuclear utility Energoatom to deploy its 'Beacon' core monitoring system software at unit 5 of the Zaporozhye NPP. The contract is to license the use of Beacon at the unit, "enhancing safety and further diversifying fuel and related materials supply to Ukraine reactors", Westinghouse said. Beacon is already in use at unit 3 of the South Ukraine NPP, Westinghouse said. "It is a state-of-the-art product providing crucial reactor measurements for required safety margins." The software is designed to prevent problems which may arise from the use of Westinghouse fuel in Russian designed VVER reactors. Earlier trials of Westinghouse fuel had resulted in damage to VVER reactors in both Ukraine and the Czech Republic. Westinghouse has since then redesigned its fuel and introduced the use of the BEACON software to monitor the reactor core, in parpticular when it contains fuel made by different producers.Ukraine has 15 operational reactor units with two under construction - all VVERs.
Ukraine has adopted a policy of diversifying its nuclear fuel supplies, which had previously been supplied by Russian fuel company Tvel. Westinghouse President and CEO Danny Roderick stated, "Westinghouse continues to help Ukraine increase domestic energy output while enhancing safety and security, providing for Ukrainians' electricity needs and further diversifying fuel and components supply to the country. We are providing the country energy independence through diversification."
In February Ukraine's Minister of Energy and Coal Industry, Vladimir Demchishin, said he hopes to reverse the dependence on Russia for the supply of nuclear fuel in 2-3 years. In an interview to Ukrainian News, Westinghouse vice president of Michael Kirst said that since 2014 the company has significantly expanded its production capacity at its Swedish plant and has created a separate department for the production of VVER fuel. He added that Westinghouse would be able to supply fuel to all 13 VVER-1000 units in Ukraine, if necessary but would first need a licence for this from the regulator.
He said Westinghouse was also developing fuel for the smaller VVER 440 reactors and had European Union support for this, but it required further development of several years. "We need no more than a couple of years to produce the fuel. But after production it will still need to go through the licensing process in Ukraine."
Meanwhile, Russia is continuing to supply most of Ukraine's nuclear fuel. Energoatom last year bought nuclear fuel worth $643.57m, according to the State Statistic Service of Ukraine. Of the total, Tvel supplied fuel worth $610.9m and Westinghouse fuel worth $32.7m. In 2014, Ukraine bought nuclear fuel worth $628.2m, including $588.8m from Russia and $39.3m from Westinghouse. In December Demchishin said that in 2016 the share of nuclear fuel supplies from Westinghouse Electric would be increased to 40%.
However, Ukraine is expected to sign a 2016 contract for uranium supplies from Russia before May. The International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) in Russia plans to conclude a contract with Ukrainian partners for the supply of uranium ore from Ukraine, IUEC Commercial Director Gleb Efremov told Tass. Ukraine sends its uranium to Russia for enrichment and for the subsequent production of nuclear fuel for its NPPs by Tvel. In April, IUEC plans to start the procedure of corporate approval for the transaction and to complete it no later than May 2016, Efremov said.
He noted that, due to decline in spot market quotations for natural uranium and enrichment services since the previous deliveries in 2015, the turnover resulting from transactions with Ukraine was expected to decrease. However, the volume of supplies of enriched uranium by IUEC to Ukraine remained at the same level - 60,000 SWU (separate work units), he said. The shareholders of IUEC are Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom (70%), Kazakhstan's Kazatomprom (10%), the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (10%) and Ukraine's Nuclear Fuel state concern (10%). The shareholders have quotas for uranium enrichment in proportion to their shares in the authorized capital of IUEC.