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Monday, March 31, 2008

Westinghouse wins Ukraine fuel supply deal

US-based Westinghouse will supply nuclear fuel to three Russian-designed power reactors in Ukraine. The contract has inspired bitter comment from Russian observers.

South Ukraine
South Ukraine
Westinghouse will supply a total of 630 nuclear fuel assemblies to three of the VVER pressurized water reactors at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant (two VVER-440s and one VVER-1000). Until now virtually all nuclear fuel has until now been supplied by Russia's TVEL. Nuclear power provides 83% of Ukraine's electricity, and about half of all its energy.

In 2000, a financial award was granted by the US government as part of a US/Ukrainian initiative to reduce Ukraine's dependency on Russia for fuel. As well as nuclear fuel, the country also imports Russian oil, while gas supply and pricing has been a major issue in recent years. In 2005, the initiative led to six Westinghouse fuel assemblies were introduced to a South Ukraine reactor on an experimental basis; In 2009, 42 more will be added.

The new contract includes special terms to protect both the supplier and the buyer, national electricity utility Energoatom. Should Energoatom fail to gain regulatory approval for the use of Westinghouse fuel assemblies on a large scale, the American firm could terminate the contract with no penalty. On the other hand, if Westinghouse failed to meet technical standards, Energoatom could cancel.

In reaction to the announcement, Russia's Rosatom released a series of expert comments which roundly denounced the move. The various dignitaries agreed the contract was technically dubious and could be a negotiation tool during talks between Energoatom and TVEL for the remainder of nuclear fuel supplies. Furthermore they linked it to Ukraine's relationship with the European Union and its desire to join the Nato defence pact.

Chechenov Hussein, a member of the Russian Federation Commission on Natural Monopolies' subcommittee on atomic energy, said such contracts 'will bring Ukraine more harm than good.' He continued: 'I think this is a political decision not backed by economic and scientific considerations. The operation of a nuclear power plant involves the use of sophisticated, interconnected technology which can not introduce anything foreign.'

(Source: World Nuclear News)

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