Unit 5 of Ukraine’s Zaporozhye nuclear plant has now been fully loaded with Westinghouse fuel (TVS-WR), nuclear utility Energoatom announced on 12 December.

Three other units (1,3 and 4) at the Zaporozhye plant now have mixed cores of TVS-WR and Russian fuel supplied by fuel company Tvel.

Currently Zaporozhye 5 has 163 Westinghouse assemblies in the core, units 1&3 have 84 each, and unit 1 (currently closed for regular maintenance) has 126.

“Using different sources of fuel supplies, we primarily ensure the energy security of Ukraine. With regard to the reliability of alternative fuels, TVS-WR fuel demonstrates good results in terms of mechanical stability,” said Alexander Ignatchenko, Deputy Chief Engineer for Nuclear and Radiation Safety at Zaporozhye.

However, the primary task is to transfer the use of Westinghouse fuel into commercial operation at certain Zaporozhye units, Energoatom noted. In 2020, this will take place at unit 5. Also, next year it is expected that TVS-WR will be fully loaded at unit 1, and in 2021 at units 3&4. One year after that, subject to successful trial operation, the use of this alternative fuel will move to commercial operation.

The next step commercial operation at Zaporozhye will be joint work with the supplier, aimed at improving economic characteristics, calculating longer loads, which can be extended for an additional 20-40 effective days. In the future, there will also be the introduction of longer-duration fuel campaigns, depending on which station has the highest installed capacity utilisation factor.

Ukraine has 15 nuclear units operating at four sites – Khmelnitsky, Rovno, South Ukraine and Zaporozhye, comprising 13 VVER-1000s and two VVER-440s with a total capacity of 13,835MWe. Ukraine receives most of its nuclear services and nuclear fuel from Russia, but it is reducing this dependence by buying fuel from US-based Westinghouse.

Energoatom launched a project to qualify Westinghouse fuel in 2000, and in 2008 Energoatom and Westinghouse Electric Sweden (then part of Toshiba) signed a contract to ship fuel to Ukrainian reactors in 2011-2015. During trial use at South Ukraine in 2012, the fuel became deformed causing damage to the reactor and Ukraine subsequently suspended the use of Westinghouse fuel pending its redesign. Following the 2014 change of government, the contract was revived and extended. In early 2018, Energoatom and Westinghouse Electric further extended the contract until 2025.

In 2018, South Ukraine 3 was the first to begin operating exclusively on Westinghouse fuel. Westinghouse fuel is used at six of the 13 units with VVER-1000 reactors – at the South Ukraine and Zaporozhye plants. From 2021, it will supply fuel for a seventh unit, at the Rovno plant.

Photo: Zaporozhye nuclear power plant (credit: Energoatom)