The 25th Anniversary of U.S. – Ukrainian Diplomatic Relations — Projects That Change Ukraine
Posted by: Department of Energy Office, Kyiv, Ukraine
Efforts to provide Ukraine with a nuclear fuel alternative to Russia’s TVEL – which had been a monopoly provider of VVER-1000 nuclear fuel – began in 1998 with the initiation of the Ukraine Nuclear Fuel Qualification Project (UNFQP). The U.S. launched the project in response to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma’s decision to cancel the sale of Turboatom-produced turbines for Iran’s Bushehr NPP in 1998. The UNFQP thereby expanded the U.S.-Ukraine nonproliferation partnership to include the enhancement of energy security for Ukraine.
The U.S. Government, through close cooperation between the Department of Energy and Department of State, contributed more than $70 million in Freedom Support Act funding to the UNFQP to develop a robust nuclear fuel technology base in Ukraine and to diversify Ukraine’s nuclear energy supply. Initially, the effort involved sharing technology and expertise in nuclear fuel design, reactor fuel design, and fuel and core licensing with Ukraine’s Center for Reactor Core Design in Kharkiv. It then expanded with the competitive selection of Westinghouse to design, fabricate, and deliver six fuel lead test assemblies. Ukraine’s nuclear regulator reviewed and approved the loading and operation of the fuel in Ukraine’s reactors, and the fuel successfully performed four cycles at Unit 3 of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant (SUNPP) from 2005-2009.
Westinghouse subsequently designed, fabricated, and delivered a reload batch with Ukraine-provided uranium, which received approvals from Ukrainian regulators and began operation in 2010. Following a period with several challenges, Westinghouse and Energoatom agreed Westinghouse would modify its fuel for future use, and after testing at Westinghouse, the Ukrainian nuclear regulator approved the modified fuel in 2014 for expanded deployment. Following this approval, Energoatom signed a contract in December 2014 for a significant expansion in fuel provision. Westinghouse fuel is now in use at South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant and Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Energoatom envisions using Westinghouse fuel at six of the country’s 15 reactors by the end of 2017.
This project singlehandedly delivered an alternative fuel provider to Russia’s TVEL, which has significantly enhanced Ukraine’s energy security and in turn its self-determination.