Independent analysis has backed up Westinghouse’s assertion that its fuel is compatible with Ukrainian nuclear reactors.

At the end of April, Westinghouse were moved to reject claims being made by pro-Russian agencies as to the suitability of the company’s fuel for Russian-designed reactors in the beleaguered country.

Serhiy Dyachenko, Head of the Ukranian Bureau of Complex Analysis and Forecasts told Ukrainian Energy website that there were no issues with the fuel being used in Ukrainian nuclear facilities.

South Ukraine
“There are many speculations about usage of American fuel in Soviet-type reactors installed at Ukrainian NPPs. At one point, some experts pointed out that technical specifications of Westinghouse fuel assemblies did not match Ukrainian reactors,” Mr Dyachenko said. “The so-called “incidents” at South Ukraine NPP in 2011-2012 are considered a famous example. Nevertheless, damage to distancing grids of the Westinghouse fuel assemblies was actually caused by deformation of Russian TVS-A fuel assemblies, which exceeded acceptable norms by 6 times.”

“At the same time, since August 2005, when American fuel was first loaded into Ukrainian reactors, it behaved exactly according to certification and did not exhibit any issues relating to decompression of fuel elements and radiation leaks in the reactor core, unlike TVEL assemblies. For example, in 2011 South Ukraine nuclear power plant (NPP) was forced to unload 9 Russian assemblies from the core due to decompression.”

Mr Dyachenko added that even in Russia, many nuclear plant operators had phased out TVS-A assemblies in favor of different variants of TVS-2 assemblies. He concluded that the decision to extend the term of pilot usage of Westinghouse fuel until 2020 and to make relevant adjustments to the ‘current contract between NJSC “Energoatom” and this company appears reasonable.’

“In addition, joint inspection by “Energoatom” and Westinghouse has proven that there were no issues with the fuel at South Ukrainian NPP and that Westinghouse can be safely used in Ukraine. Loading of the modified fuel assemblies TVS-WR is planned for early 2015.”

Professor Volodymyr Tokarevsky, Head of the Department of Atomic Energy at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences is of similar mind on the issue and was specific about how the misinformation on Westinghouse’s adaptability for Ukrainian reactors came about.

Professor Tokarevsky said that while there were problems when the Westinghouse fuel assemblies were loaded at the Ukrainian VVER reactor installations – they did not fully withstand the hydrodynamic loads – these were not of the significance being promoted in some Russian outlets.

“According to a report by a special inspection that investigated the specifics of the Westinghouse fuel performance at the South Ukraine NPP in 2011-2012, the fuel assemblies had some defects. In particular, the distancing armature rims were damaged; there were also scratches at the fuel assemblies’ armature. Here it is important to understand that these are mechanical damages. There hasn’t been a single case of Westinghouse fuel leakage – this is a great myth, which can still be often seen in the news.”

Following the Russian invasion of the Crimea, US-based Westinghouse were called in to assist Ukrainian energy security by continuing to provide reliable fuel supplies for the country’s nuclear reactors through to 2020. It is expected that the company’s products will meet up to 25% of annual fuel demand of Ukrainian NPPs.

Ukraine is the third biggest market in Europe by nuclear energy consumption, after France and Great Britain. The country imports most of its fuel from Russia. Cooperation with Westinghouse does not rule out future use of Russian fuel; however, it does prevent Ukraine’s total dependence on Russian supplies.

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