Finland’s Fortum Power & Heat Oy has submitted a report on future fuel procurement for the Loviisa NPP to the Ministry of Labour & Trade. The submission of the report was one of the permit conditions imposed when the government granted Fortum's two Loviisa units until the end of 2050. Fortum was required to submit a report to the Ministry by the end of.2023 on how it will handle the procurement of fresh fuel in the future. The purpose of the permit condition is to ensure that the fuel supply for Loviisa would no longer rely solely on the Russia’s TVEL.

Loviisa NPP comprises two Soviet designed VVER-440 units, which were commissioned in 1977 and 1980 and initially received fuel from Russia. In 1996-98 a fuel assembly design – NOVA E-3 (fixed assembly) and NOVCA (follower) – was developed in a programme involving BNFL (UK), IVO (Finland) and PAKS (Hungary). The programme included extensive testing and qualification of the new design. In June 1998, the manufacturing of five Lead Test Assemblies – four fixed and one follower assembly – in Springfields, UK, was completed and the fuel was delivered for insertion in Loviisa unit 2. Between 2001 and 2007, BNFL/Westinghouse delivered a total of 741 VVER-440 fuel assemblies to the Loviisa NPP in Finland which were manufactured by Enusa in Spain.

The NOVA E-3 and NOVCA designs were integrated into the Westinghouse fuel product portfolio, and all the intellectual property for the VVER-440 fuel was transferred from BNFL to Westinghouse in 2005-2006. However, in 2007 Loviisa decided to switch back to Russian fuel. After failing to extend the Loviisa fuel contract and failing to win any other VVER-440 delivery contracts, Westinghouse decided to withdraw from the market in 2008, and closed down the supply chain and design development of the VVER-440 design.

Loviisa’s current fuel agreement with the TVEL is valid until the end of the current operating licences of the plants two units in 2027 and 2030. In spring 2022, Fortum applied for a new operating licence for both units until 2050, and announced that a tendering process would be arranged for fuel supply for the next operating licence period.

Fortum had announced in November 2022 that it had signed an agreement with Westinghouse Electric Company to deliver a new fuel type for Loviisa. However, the introduction of new fuel is a multi-year project that requires regulatory approvals. Efforts to develop new design VVER-440 fuel restarted in 2014 in face of the demand for increased security of energy supply in Europe. Westinghouse, in a consortium comprising nine organisations, applied for a Euratom funded programme for diversification of the VVER fuel market in Europe, and was granted €2m ($16.5m) in 2015 to launch the ESSANUF programme, which ran until 2017. Development continued and in early 2023, Westinghouse and Enusa agreed to manufacture VVER-440 fuel using their factories at Västerås, in Sweden, and Juzbado (Salamanca), in Spain. The following September the first test assemblies were loaded at Ukraine’s Rivne NPP.

According to its report to the Ministry, Fortum will tender for fuel production after 2027/2030. Meanwhile the agreement with Westinghouse and the fresh TVEL fuel in stock will ensure Loviisa’s fuel supply. In addition, Fortum announced that it is investigating the possibilities of another Western fuel supplier developing VVER-440 fuel in order to improve the security of fuel supply and strengthen competition. Most likely this could be France’s Framatome, which recently signed a fuel supply agreement with Hungary, which also operates VVER-440s. The Ministry said it will continue to monitor the availability of fuels.

Image: Loviisa units 1 and 2 (courtesy of Fortum)