The decision to secure fuel supplies from companies other than Russia’s TVEL for the Czech Republic’s Dukovany NPP in the Trebíc region is expected in the coming months, Dana Drábová, chairwoman of the State Office for Nuclear Safety, told a seminar on 5 May.
"I can't imagine being dependent on just one supplier in the future. Some negotiations are underway, I can't say the details yet," noted the Dukovany NPP director Roman Havlín. Dukovany now has a fuel supply for almost three years. "According to the valid contract, another delivery from Russia should take place later this year," Havlín noted.
TVEL has been supplying Dukovany for almost 40 years and continues to develop fuel for the power plant's needs. "If we buy it from another supplier, it does not have such a history. This means that the fuel in our country will be usable, it will be safe, but it can have a higher or lower output, we do not know that, "Havlín explained.
TVEL (part of Rosatom) was also a supplier for the Temelín NPP but from 2024 US-based Westinghouse and the French Framatome will its fuel.
Drábová said did not expect it would be necessary to change fuel suppliers for the roughly 20 years of operation that remained for the Dukovany plant. She noted that TVEL produces fuel of excellent parameters. "CEZ [Czech power utility] will have to come to terms with the fact that the fuel from the new supplier will not be optimised for performance, as was the case with the fuel from TVEL," said Drábová.
The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor units: four Russian designed VVER-440 units at Dukovany site, which began operation between 1985 and 1987, and two VVER-1000 units at Temelín, which began operation in 2000 and 2002. Total installed nuclear capacity is 3934MWe accounting for 32.5% of electricity generation.
Westinghouse had previously supplied fuel to Temelín for ten years after its commissioning, while Framatome is the only manufacturer based in the European Union that supplies fuel assemblies to most Western European NPPs. However, while Framatome currently supplies 380 reactors worldwide, it does not supply fuel for Russian design VVER reactors.
TVEL has been supplying fuel to Temelin since 2010 and its current contract ends in 2023. Westinghouse fuel was used at Temelin from 2002 to 2009. However, there were a series of technical problems including fuel deformation and incomplete rod insertion and in May 2006, TVEL won a tender for a 10-year fuel supply contract with delivery to start in 2009. The plan was to phase in the TVEL fuel gradually but in 2009 CEZ announced that it would immediately switch TVEL fuel in 2010 and the remaining Westinghouse fuel was removed. Westinghouse subsequently redesigned its VVER fuel following similar problems in Ukraine.
However, as yet, neither Westinghouse nor Framatome have designed fuel for VVER-440 reactors, although Westinghouse is in the process of doing so. It is not known when it will be ready for testing or commercial use.
Image: The Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, Czech Republic