US-based Westinghouse has signed an agreement with Ukraine on the purchase of equipment for the expansion of Khmelnitsky NPP. The agreement was signed by Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko, nuclear utility Energoatom President Petro Kotin and Westinghouse CEO Patrick Fragman. “We have signed an important contract for the supply of reactor island equipment for the Khmelnitsky NPP power unit 5, which will be built using AP1000 technology.” Kotin said. “I consider this to be a milestone event in the development of the domestic nuclear industry. This will be the first-ever non-Soviet (by origin) power unit to be built by Energoatom in Ukraine. It will have a power over 1,100 MWe with a safe and reliable Generation III+ nuclear reactor.”

This is the latest stage in a process that started in 2021 during the visit of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the USA. “I am grateful that we are supported by the Government and the Ministry of Energy in making those decisions that allowed Energoatom to conclude this agreement,” Kotin added

After signing joint memoranda with Westinghouse (in 2021 and 2022) on the construction of initially five, and later nine units using Westinghouse AP1000 technology, Energoatom embarked on pre-design and design work and a draft of a feasibility study was prepared. During subsequent negotiations, “quite favourable conditions were obtained for the supply of equipment, which is already manufactured and ready for delivery,” Energoatom said. The equipment had been manufactured for two new units at the US VC Summer NPP being built in South Carolina before the project was cancelled in the wake of Westinghouse filing for bankruptcy. 

“This will allow us to significantly speed up the construction of Khmelnitsky 5. We will not have to wait at least three years – this is the term for the manufacture of such equipment to order – and stand in line with other Westinghouse customers,” Kotin commented. Khmelnitsky's first reactor was connected to the grid in 1987, but work on three other reactors was suspended in 1990. Construction of the second reactor restarted and it was connected to the grid in 2004,but units 3&4 remain uncompleted. Energoatom said that, once the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) passes the necessary legislation for the construction of NPPs using AP1000 technology, Energoatom will begin construction works at the site for unit 5. During construction, up to 9,000 new jobs will be created. The total construction cost is expected to be around $5bn.

Kotin and Fragman also held discussions on a range of issues following the contract signing. These included current cooperation between the companies and “the loading of nuclear fuel manufactured by Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB with participation of Energoatom’s experts into a VVER-440 reactor at Rivne NPP”. Kotin said he “rated highly” the quality of the US fuel loaded into Rivne NPP unit September, 2023. Kotin also spoke about establishing an assembly line for nuclear fuel in Ukraine. He said: “Ukraine is continuing licensing to enable industrial production of its own fuel assemblies based on Westinghouse technology.”

Rivne units 1&2, commissioned in 1980 and 1981, are the only VVER-440 units in Ukraine. Ukraine also operates 13 VVER-1000 units, including Rivne 3&4 and Westinghouse has been supplying VVER-1000 fuel to Ukraine since 2005, when the first lead test assemblies were delivered to unit 3 the South Ukraine NPP, although the switch from Russian TVEL fuel had its problems. During trial use at South Ukraine NPP in 2012, some fuel became deformed causing significant damage to the reactor and Ukraine later suspended its use pending a redesign. Following Ukraine's change of government in 2014, the contract was revived and extended and the VVER-1000 fuel was structurally modified and modernised.

Over the past several years there has been growing pressure from the European Union (EU) for member states to diversify away from the use of Russian-supplied fuel. Westinghouse Electric Sweden, is leading the Accelerated Programme for Implementation of Secure VVER Fuel Supply (APIS), which was launched in January. There are currently over 30 reactors of VVER-440 and VVER-1000 design operating in the EU and in Ukraine.

In July the EU selected a consortium led by Westinghouse to develop and deliver a secure, fully European nuclear fuel supply for Russian-designed VVERs. The three-year APIS project is co-funded by the EU, using €10m ($10.9m) from the Euratom Work Programme 2023-2025. APIS, part of the EU's Horizon Europe programme for research & innovation, involves 12 partners from eight countries. The race is now on to develop an alternative to TVEL’s VVER-440 fuel. Finland had sourced fuel from Westinghouse (then part of BNFL) for its two VVER-440 units at Loviisa from 2001 to 2007, but decided to switch to TVEL. Westinghouse then shut down its manufacture of VVER-440 fuel and has rushed to redesign it in collaboration with Spain’s Enusa. A production line for the new fuel at Enusa’s Juzbado factory is being developed and Ukraine is trialling the fuel at Rivne. 

During the discussions, Fragman emphasised that cooperation between Westinghouse and Energoatom would continue and expand. He said establishment of the joint Energoatom-Westinghouse engineering centre in Ukraine would support bilateral work.

Image: (L-R) Westinghouse CEO Patrick Fragman, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko and Energoatom President Petro Kotin at the signing ceremony (courtesy of Energoatom)