Ukraine loads nuclear fuel from Westinghouse into VVER-440 reactor for the first time

The state enterprise National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom has announced the loading of the first portion of nuclear fuel produced by Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB into Soviet-style VVER-440 reactors at the Rivne NPP. This will allow Ukraine to completely abandon Russian-made nuclear fuel in the future.

Today, Energoatom is the world’s first company to operate Soviet-designed reactors and has implemented a project to diversify nuclear fuel for VVER-1000 and VVER-440 reactors.

The contract for the supply of VVER-440 fuel assemblies from Westinghouse Electric Company was signed in September 2020. It was planned to start operating Westinghouse fuel in 2025, but after the start of full-scale Russian aggression, the production of this fuel in Sweden was significantly reduced.

“The greatness of this day is the end of the Russian monopoly in this segment of the nuclear fuel market. And I really hope that this day will open the way for quick sanctions against Russians in the nuclear energy sector,” said Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko during the celebrations dedicated to the event.

Westinghouse CEO Patrick Fragman emphasized that Energoatom and Westinghouse experts have done a fantastic job in a year and a half, which usually takes six to seven years: “We have done it together, not only for Ukraine, but also for most European countries, where nuclear reactors can now be completely independent of fuel supplies from Russia.”

Aziz Dag, Managing Director of Westinghouse Electric Sweden, thanked all the specialists who worked at the plant in Sweden 24/7 to achieve the fastest possible result. He also emphasized the importance of the development in the face of winter.

“When Russia’s full-scale invasion began, we turned to our partners from Westinghouse with a proposal to accelerate the production of fuel for VVER-440 reactors. With our engineering support, they produced it in a year and a half and brought it here to Rivne NPP. I thank our partners for this, I thank everyone who took part in this,” said Petro Kotin, President of Energoatom.

According to Petr Kotin, for the time being, the American-Swedish fuel will be used in the reactor core along with Russian fuel, with its subsequent complete replacement.

For his part, the head of the Ministry of Energy noted that this landmark event should finally remove all European countries’ concerns about moving away from Russian nuclear fuel.

Currently, there are more than 50 VVER reactor units in operation in the world, which until recently had no alternative to Russian fuel. In particular, there are NPPs with VVER reactors in Ukraine, Armenia, China, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, India, and Iran. Among the countries planning to commission VVER reactors are Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey. Germany shut down all its VVER reactors in 1989-90 and canceled the construction of new ones.