The use of Russian nuclear fuel is set to continue for several more years at Finland’s Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant, operated by Fortum, Finnish news agency STT has reported, citing Fortum’s director of nuclear power, Matti Kattainen. "We have a valid contract under which we work," Kattainen said. 

Currently, Rosatom fuel company TVEL supplies fuel for Loviisa’s two VVER 440 reactors. The agreement is valid until the expiration of the current licences of the Loviisa NPP in 2027 and 2030. Earlier this year, Fortum submitted an application to the Ministry of Labour & Economy, detailing its plans to extend the life of the reactors until 2050. The decision to renew the licence is expected in early 2023. Earlier, in its semi-annual financial report, Fortum indicated that the supplier of fuel could not be changed quickly due to certification procedures. At present no other company makes fuel for Soviet-designed VVER-440s, although US Westinghouse is reportedly working on developing it. Westinghouse has developed fuel for the larger Russian-designed VVER-1000 reactors.

Fortum stated that it will invite bids from supplier candidates when the Loviisa operating licences, and the current supplier contracts, come up for renewal in 2027 and 2030. We’ll look at who’s the most suitable fuel supplier at the latest when the current contract expires,” Kattainen said.

Juhani Hyvärinen, a professor of nuclear technology at Lappeenranta University, noted the relatively low number of potential suppliers. He added on a general level that the company would likely require a year or two after signing a supplier contract to take the first delivery.

Nuclear fuel is presently not on the sanctions list of the European Union. The possibility of bringing it within the scope of sanctions has reportedly been discussed, but this seems unlikely during the current energy crisis. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs told YLE that adding nuclear fuel to the list would require a unanimous decision by the 27-country bloc, but declined to comment on the discussions.

Image: Finland’s Loviisa nuclear power plant (courtesy of Fortum)