US-Ukraine partnership to help Ukraine diversify its energy sources

The 25th Anniversary of U.S. – Ukrainian Diplomatic Relations — Projects That Change Ukraine

Posted by: Department of Energy Office, Kyiv, Ukraine

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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.

Westinghouse fuel assembles as stored before loading at Zaporyzhya NPP
Westinghouse fuel assembles as stored before loading at Zaporyzhya NPP

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.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

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.

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Open Data for a Better Ukrainian Future

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016
1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016

Last Friday, I got to attend the 1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day” at the Eurasia Business Center.  This is one of my favorite events all year, and was definitely a highlight of my week.  The Open Data Incubator, founded by the amazing Denis Gursky, brings together teams from all around Ukraine for a super-intense six-week program of developing open data solutions in different fields.  This year, 14 teams from Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa put together open data plans for agriculture, energy efficiency, public safety, anticorruption, and transportation.  Of course, the best part of the program is the Demo Day at the end, because that’s when you get to see what the teams have come up with.  As always, seeing what Ukraine’s dynamic and talented technology experts can do was incredibly inspirational.  I’m very grateful to Denis and to the United States-supported Western NIS Enterprise Fund (and also Microsoft Ukraine, who hosted Demo Day) for making this open data event possible.

1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016
1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016

The 1991 Open Data Incubator is a powerful example of how the innovation economy can drive progress not only in business, but in all of society.  I’m from California, so I’m a technology optimist.  I’ve seen the extraordinarily important, transformative impact that technology has had during my professional lifetime of about thirty years.  Every couple of years, I try to get to Silicon Valley for a day or two, because you talk to people there and it’s a reminder of how fast the world is changing.  You meet people who have boundless imagination and who are absolutely committed to the idea of leveraging technology to improve the world in which we live.  Today, Ukraine is tapping into those same dynamics and I’m very excited to see where that leads.

1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016
1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016

Open data is a prime example of a multi-purpose approach that has benefits in many areas – fighting corruption, leveraging innovation, driving economic growth – something that was obvious from talking to the Incubator project representatives last Friday.  I loved hearing about AgroMonitor and AgriEye, innovators who are using information to modernize and raise the technological sophistication of agriculture, such an important part of Ukraine’s economy and with such huge potential.  As somebody who travels a lot in Ukraine and has spent a lot of time on Ukrainian roads, it was great to learn about Navizor, an open data navigation solution.  These are all examples of how technology can transform traditional business processes in a way that creates new services, facilitates economic growth, and improves quality of life.

Ukraine has all the ingredients to go through a fundamental transformation in economic possibility driven by open data and grassroots innovation, the same transformation we’ve seen in other countries.  You have talented and well-qualified engineers and technologists.  You have an extraordinary DNA for creativity and innovation.  And you have the national commitment to democracy and strong civil society that is an indispensable ingredient of a flourishing innovation economy.

As Ukraine’s incredibly talented technologists continue to develop that innovation economy, the United States will remain your strong partner.  Keep it up – you’re building the future.

 

Access to Information = Access to Opportunity

Posted by: Oleksandra Chuvakova,  Community Affairs Coordinator,  Microsoft Ukraine

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BibliomistTechnology is becoming increasingly important in all public services, but especially libraries. In an age where economic, educational, health, and social opportunities depend more and more on access to the Internet, lack of access means lack of opportunity.

Microsoft decided that the USAID Bibliomist project was a great opportunity to partner with USAID, the International Research and Exchanges Board,  the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Library Association to spur the evolution of Ukraine’s libraries into modern information resource  and community centers.  Microsoft donated $9 million in software to Ukraine’s public libraries as part of its global initiative to endow communities with accessible and useful technology.  Today Bibliomist can proudly state that it has helped revive 10 percent of Ukraine’s libraries and firmly planted the seeds to rejuvenate many more. Only through such a broad-based partnership could such an endeavor be realized.

Libraries are sources not only of books but also information, so their importance is not waning. Libraries can use technology in a variety of ways. For instance, by supporting public access computers, we help ensure that those who do not have computers available to them at home, work, or school can still benefit from this critical technology. Using technology, libraries can also provide benefits to the community as a whole. For instance, libraries are well positioned to develop community assessments, which are studies that help a community identify its needs and then determine how to go about meeting them.

Today Ukraine’s public libraries are working diligently to close both the digital and the opportunity gap: from giving free classes on resume-building to providing free access to technology.  They are striving to provide services and workshops that address essential community needs, from increasing electoral literacy to promoting healthy lifestyles. As libraries discover better ways to deliver information via new media platforms and improve operational efficiencies, they will have a greater impact on a broader population.

In supporting Ukraine’s libraries, our expectation is that Microsoft technologies will be a resource that both municipalities and local community groups will be able to use in their efforts to bridge the digital divide and make their communities stronger.

Although there is much still to do, we’re inspired by what we’ve seen while working with Ukrainians: people taking the lead in changing not only their lives but the lives of those around them, making a real impact in their local communities and in Ukraine in general.

Zhulyany’s New Nuclear Detection System: Protecting Ukraine from Radioactive Threats

Posted by: Laura Smiley, U.S. Department of Energy

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A Representative of Ukraine’s Border Guard, General  Karas (right) greets DCM Bruce Donahue (2nd from left) as well as DOE Staff Kateryna Kamchatna (left) and Arina Kovalenko (3rd from left)
A Representative of Ukraine’s Border Guard, General Karas (right) greets DCM Bruce Donahue (2nd from left) as well as DOE Staff Kateryna Kamchatna (left) and Arina Kovalenko (3rd from left)

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Second Line of Defense (SLD) program marked another milestone in Ukraine on October 30, 2013.  A radioactive portal monitoring system was installed by SLD at Zhulyani International Airport – the second busiest airport in Ukraine, and key participants from NNSA, the U.S. Embassy, the Ukrainian Border Guards, and the Airport Administration came together to celebrate the new equipment with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

General Karas speaks while DCM Donahue, SLD Country Manager Andrew Vogt , and DOE Program Coordinator Arina Kovalenko stand by
General Karas speaks while DCM Donahue, SLD Country Manager Andrew Vogt , and DOE Program Coordinator Arina Kovalenko stand by

The ceremony, which was held in the beautiful, new Terminal A building at Zhulyani, was attended by U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Bruce Donahue, the Ukraine Border Guard Service First Deputy Director of the International Legal Department, General  Volodymyr Karas, NNSA Ukraine SLD manager, Andrew Vogt, DOE Kyiv staff, and many others.

General Karas and Bruce Donahue gave speeches complimenting NNSA on more than 50 successful installations of SLD equipment, the latest of which was the system of portal monitors at Zhulyani.  DCM Donahue also pointed out that the SLD program was responsible for equipping regional training centers in Ukraine.

General Karas and DCM Donahue cut the ribbon on the SLD installation in the new international terminal at Zhulyani Airport in Kyiv
General Karas and DCM Donahue cut the ribbon on the SLD installation in the new international terminal at Zhulyani Airport in Kyiv

Together, DCM Donahue and General Karas cut the ribbon surrounding the portal monitors for the terminal.  The Border Guard then demonstrated the system when that first “traveler” crossed the threshold of the airport with a radiological source in his bag.  While lights flashed and alarms blared, the Border Guards detained the actor and demonstrated the effectiveness of both the monitors and the hand-held devices.

The Border Guard detains a “suspect” after the system alarms
The Border Guard detains a “suspect” after the system alarms
New Portal Monitors at Zhulyani International Airport
New Portal Monitors at Zhulyani International Airport

This ribbon-cutting event served to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program in Ukraine, signed on October 23, 1993. The SLD program has been implemented under the CTR Umbrella Agreement since 2005.

IMG_0493During the event DCM Bruce Donahue recognized the most recent accomplishments in the cooperative effort in combating the threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism and congratulated everyone on the success of this challenging task.  The Border Guard presented the U.S. personnel and Airport Administration with plaques honoring their contributions to the success of border security in Ukraine.

A Teaching Revolution

Posted by: Crystal Bock Thiessen, English Language Fellow

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9507694313_c43956372d_cWalking into a room of nineteen young Ukrainian English language teachers, it was hard not to be aware of something stirring, of something much bigger beginning to take place.

As a part of the U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s annual novice teacher training, I was invited to work with these novice participants in current English as a Foreign Language (EFL) methodologies and best practices.  We explored topics in lesson planning, error correction, and using technology and social media in the EFL classroom as well.  Everything was done with a focus on the communicative approach to teaching and on learner-centered teaching (a fairly uncommon concept in this part of the world).  In preparation for this endeavor, the words I heard over and over again were simply, “they’re hungry.”  No doubt that feeling was thick in the air throughout the training.

9510471632_0b3bae6a34_cThese are exciting times to be a young English language teacher and learner–scary, yet exciting.  Once again in our great educational evolution we are on the brink of a transformation in not only how we think about language education, but in how we go about it in our classrooms.  This is especially true in Ukraine, where the stifling idea of English as merely a puddle of complicated grammar rules and translation purposes has given way to a generation of Internet-savvy learners quite ready to actually use the language to communicate with the world they so willingly connect to and absorb.  There’s restlessness towards the way things have always been done—towards the English learning of the past.  What these young teachers are just becoming aware of is that they are the first bullets in what will ultimately be the next revolution in English-language education.  They are the ones who will start the chain of change, and change, as we all know, is incredibly difficult.

Like I said, scary and exciting.

9510490234_137cd9d0f9_cBy the end of the four days with these novice teachers, the hunger for useful English teaching skills was joined by a sense of empowerment in the knowledge that, as engrained as things seem here in Ukraine in terms of English education, the revolution of it is beginning now with this generation of new teachers.   Having such programs and workshops sponsored by the Regional English Language Office shows these teachers that we are committed to helping them meet their language-teaching challenges head on, and that we too are hungry for these new practices and methodologies to become the norm, not the exception, in English language education here in Ukraine.

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Ambassador Tefft Visits Ivano-Frankivsk

Marc Gartner, Economic Officer

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Amb. Tefft and Mykhaylo Vyshyvanyuk, Head of the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Administration at the oblast border

In mid-November, I had the chance of a lifetime: to travel in Ivano-Frankivsk with our Ambassador and see first-hand the positive impact U.S.-Ukraine cooperation has made for residents of the region.  Ivano-Frankivsk is one of the more beautiful oblasts in the country, with gorgeous rustic villages nestled in verdant mountain valleys, a regional capital (Ivano-Frankivsk) with splendid churches and centuries-old streets, and some of the most hospitable and welcoming people in Ukraine.  Over the course of two days, I witnessed a culture that looks with pride at its traditions and at the same time is intent on its future.

The Ambassador went to Ivano-Frankivsk to participate in a symposium on shale gas to which the Embassy had brought a number of U.S. experts. While in town, he had meetings with the governor and mayor, alumni of U.S.-government-sponsored exchange programs, and Peace Corps volunteers.  For me, one of our most interesting meetings was at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University of Ivano-Frankivsk.  This excellent higher-educational establishment has been collaborating with the

Nano-Materials Center at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University of Ivano-Frankivsk

United States to build a novel research lab – the Nano-Materials Center, one of only two in the entire country.  Both the United States and Ukraine have contributed approximately $300,000 each since 2009 to develop the research center under a CRDF grant.  In a meeting hall of about 35 people, including professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and local officials, we saw a fascinating presentation by the center’s lead scientist on the history of the laboratory and its areas of focus.  The lab was performing cutting-edge research and development in engineering as diverse as nanotech manufacturing and lithium batteries, applications which could be commercialized and advance high-tech industry in Ukraine.  The presentation segued into a tour of the entire facility, which included some of the most advanced lab machines in the country.  I noticed the Ambassador was extremely impressed to hear that the fruit of U.S.-Ukrainian cooperation could advance technology in a host of areas and that the lab was networking with other labs in the European Union.

Later that day, I had a few free minutes to meet up with Yuriy, a tour guide, to learn more about the history of Ivano-Frankivsk city.  Yuriy led me to the two main historical squares of the city, explaining how the city had changed over time, from a walled stronghold to a market center of the region.  We walked through the old city wall, which is now filled with attractive art galleries, and entered the Cathedral of the Holy Resurrection, a beautiful 300-year old Greek Orthodox church that would not be out of place in the heart of Paris.  As people came and went in the church, I realized that Ivano-Frankivsk represented both the past and the future of Ukraine, respect for tradition and spiritual enlightenment and expectation for a bright future of new ideas and international collaboration.

50 States in 50 Days: New Mexico – Land of Enchantment

Posted by: Eric Salzman, Economic Officer

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The state bearing the motto “Land of Enchantment” presents a fascinating mixture of the ancient and the futuristic within its borders.

Taos Pueblo residential complex, probably built between 1000 and 1450 A.D. (Photo by Luca Galuzzi)

Out of the Past

Native cultures flourished in New Mexico beginning around 1,200 BC, giving rise to the Anasazi civilization, which built fortified cities and cliff dwellings for defense and roads for commerce. “Anasazi” is a Navajo term to refer to the “Ancient Ones” who once lived in what later became the Navajo territory (encompassing large parts of what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado). The Anasazi were forced to abandon their stone cities, perhaps due to a 300-year drought, but the ruins have become National Monuments and Cultural Parks at Bandelier and Chaco Canyon, and their descendants may still live on in the Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni and other tribes that call New Mexico home. Every August, New Mexico hosts the Gathering of Nations Powwow, which features exhibitions and competitions in dance, music, and traditional crafts of native peoples from throughout North and South America.

White Sands National Monument

Into the Future

In 1942, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was founded in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project, with the goal of developing the atomic bomb. Today, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the Laboratory continues to conduct cutting edge research in all branches of science. Continue reading “50 States in 50 Days: New Mexico – Land of Enchantment”