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Nuclear Power in Ukraine

(Updated 19 December 2014)

  • Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy – it has 15 reactors generating about half of its electricity.
  • Ukraine receives most of its nuclear services and nuclear fuel from Russia, but is reducing this dependence by buying fuel from Westinghouse.
  • In 2004 Ukraine commissioned two large new reactors. The government plans to maintain nuclear share in electricity production to 2030, which will involve substantial new build.
  • The government is looking to the West for both technology and investment in its nuclear plants.

A large share of primary energy supply in Ukraine comes from the country's uranium and substantial coal resources. The remainder is oil and gas, mostly imported from Russia. In 1991, due to breakdown of the Soviet Union, the country's economy collapsed and its electricity consumption declined dramatically from 296 billion kWh in 1990 to 170 in 2000, all the decrease being from coal and gas plants. Today Ukraine is developing shale gas deposits and hoping to export this to western Europe by 2020 through the established pipeline infrastructure crossing its territory from the east.

Total electricity production in 2012 amounted to 199 TWh, with 11.5 TWh net exports to Europe. In 2012, 90 TWh (45%) was from nuclear, 80 TWh from coal, 16 TWh from gas, and 11 TWh from hydro. Electricity consumption was 138 TWh. Total capacity is about 52 GWe, including 22 GWe coal-fired, 13.8 GWe nuclear, 5 GWe gas and 4.8 GWe hydro. Much of the coal-fired plant is old and with unconstrained emissions, and nearly half of it is due to close down in ten years. IAEA figures for 2013 had 78.2 TWh (43.6%) from nuclear.

A major increase in electricity demand to 307 billion kWh per year by 2020 and 420 billion kWh by 2030 is envisaged, and government policy was to continue supplying half of this from nuclear power. This would have required 29.5 GWe of nuclear capacity in 2030, up from 13.9 GWe (13.2 GWe net) now. The new government formed in 2014 has confirmed these targets, and said that Ukraine aims to integrate with the European power grid and gas network to make the country part of the European energy market by 2017.

In September 2014 the new government introduced a bill to parliament that will allow the sale of 40% of Energoatom to a foreign investor. This followed an announcement that the prime minister expected agreements for new nuclear reactor construction to be signed by the end of the year, possibly for western designs. However, refurbishment of older plants to extend operating lives and bring them to conformity with EU standards seems more probable, both economically and regarding time scale. Westinghouse is a leading contender for this work.

In mid-2011 the Ukraine energy strategy to 2030 was updated, and in the electricity sector nuclear power's role was emphasized, with improved safety and increased domestic fuel fabrication. In mid-2012 the policy was again updated, and 5000 to 7000 MWe of new nuclear capacity was proposed by 2030, costing some $25 billion.

Ukraine Map

(Source: Energoatom)

Electricity Generation Ukraine

Nuclear industry development

Nuclear energy development started in 1970 with construction of the Chernobyl power plant, the first unit being commissioned in 1977.

Though the Ukrainian nuclear industry was closely involved with Russia for many years, it remained relatively stable during the changes that occurred when the country became independent of the former Soviet Union. In fact, during that period and since, there have been continuing improvements in the operational safety and output levels of Ukraine's nuclear reactors.

Ukraine's 15 nuclear power units at four nuclear power plants are operated by NNEGC Energoatom, the country's nuclear power utility. Following the addition of two new VVER-1000 reactors in 2005, capacity increased to 13,168 which was 26.3% of the country’s total installed capacity. Energoatom expects nuclear to retain its contribution of 50-52% of Ukraine's electricity in 2020.

All are Russian VVER types, two being 440 MWe V-312 models and the rest the larger 1000 MWe units – two early models and the rest V-320s.

Power reactors have operated in Ukraine since 1977, and over 300 reactor years of operating experience have been accumulated. Load factors have increased steadily and reached 81.4% in 2004. A decrease of the country's load factor after 2005 is related to restrictions imposed by the national electricity grid. Early in 2010 it was at 73%. "Operational disturbances" at nuclear plants dropped from 71 in 1999 to 21 in 2009.

Nuclear Plant Load Factors Ukraine

At the end of 1995 Zaporozhe unit 6 was connected to the grid making Zaporozhe the largest nuclear power station in Europe, with a net capacity of 5718 MWe. (The second largest station operating is Gravelines, near Dunkerque in France, with a net capacity of 5460 MWe.)

In August and October 2004 Khmelnitski 2 and Rovno 4 respectively were connected to the grid, bringing their long and interrupted construction to an end and adding 1900 MWe to replace that lost by closure of Chernobyl 1&3 in 1996 and 2000 respectively. They were completed by Energoatom using a consortium of Framatome ANP and Atomstroyexport. See fuller account of K2-R4 in Appendix below.

In 1990 construction of three reactors (units 2-4) at Khmelnitski had been halted, though the site infrastructure for all four units was largely complete. Unit 3 was (and is) 75% complete, unit 4: 28% complete. These have been maintained to some extent since. An intergovernmental agreement with Russia on completing the two units was signed in mid-2010 and a contract with Atomstroyexport was signed in February 2011. Ukraine was hoping to sign a loan agreement for them late in 2012 and resume construction soon after.

In June 2014 the energy ministry said that a new concept for the development of nuclear power is expected to be adopted before the end of the year and will include the technical and financial aspects of the construction of new power units, as well as advancing plans for a fuel fabrication plant and a waste repository. In July the cabinet reviewed the situation, affirmed the priority of nuclear power, and said that a western-design reactor might be built at South Ukraine, which had access from the sea for large equipment delivery.

Ukraine power reactors operating

Reactor Type
V=PWR
MWe net Commercial operation Scheduled close, likely close
Northwest:        
Khmelnitski 1
V-320
950
Aug 1988
2018, 2032
Khmelnitski 2
V-320
950
Aug 2005
2035, 2050
Rivne/Rovno 1
V-213
402
Sep 1981
2030
Rivne/Rovno 2
V-213
416
Jul 1982
2031
Rivne/Rovno 3
V-320
950
May 1987
2017, 2032
Rivne/Rovno 4
V-320
950
late 2005
2035, 2050
South:        
South Ukraine 1
V-302
950
Oct 1983
2023, 2033
South Ukraine 2
V-338
950
Apr 1985
2015, 2030
South Ukraine 3
V-320
950
Dec 1989
2019, 2034
Zaporozhe 1
V-320
950
Dec 1985
2015, 2030
Zaporozhe 2
V-320
950
Feb 1986
2016, 2031
Zaporozhe 3
V-320
950
Mar 1987
2017, 2032
Zaporozhe 4
V-320
950
Apr 1988
2018, 2033
Zaporozhe 5
V-320
950
Oct 1989
2019, 2034
Zaporozhe 6
V-320
950
Sep 1996
2026, 2041
Total (15)   13,168 MWe net (13,835 MWe gross – Energoatom May 2010)

Life extension and upgrades

Original design lifetime of the Russian reactors was 30 years. Energoatom initially planned to extend the lifetimes of Rovno 1 & 2 and South Ukraine 1 by 15 years and final checking of the pressure vessels (for embrittlement) and the internals of all three units was in 2008-9. A 20-year extension of the operating licences for Rovno 1&2 was granted by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRI or SNRC) in December 2010. Energoatom said that more than US$ 300 million had been invested in upgrading the two units since 2004, in collaboration with IAEA. Energoatom has said that Rovno 1&2 are pilot facilities and that it plans to extend all reactor lifetimes similarly. In mid-2012 it announced that the 11 oldest 1000 MWe reactors are to have 20-year life extensions by 2030. In February 2013 the SNRI said that South Ukraine 1 could have life extension after a major upgrade during 2013, and in October it approved plans for a ten-year extension to 2023. In 2014 SNRC was assessing unit 2 of the plant preliminary to a 300-day outage from May 2015 to upgrade it.

In March 2013 the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) announced a EUR 300 million loan for comprehensive reactor safety upgrading to the end of 2017, matching EUR 300 million from Euratom. The EUR 1.4 billion project will include up to 87 safety measures addressing design safety issues comprising the replacement of equipment in safety relevant systems, improvements of instrumentation and control for safety relevant systems and the introduction of organisational improvements for accident management.

The life extension program is being challenged under the UN Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context – informally known as the Espoo Convention – which has been ratified by 44 countries and the EU. The convention comes under the Economic Commission for Europe and the challenge is on the basis of inadequate environmental assessment.

Ukraine's best-known nuclear power plant was Chernobyl (Chornobyl in Ukrainian). This had the only RBMK type reactors in the country. Unit 4 was destroyed in the 1986 accident, unit 2 was shut down after a turbine hall fire in 1991, unit 1 was closed in 1997 and unit 3 closed at the end of 2000 due to international pressure.

Increasing nuclear power capacity

Interruptions in natural gas supply from Russia in January 2006 sharply focused attention on the need for greater energy security and the role of nuclear power in achieving this. A nuclear power strategy involving building and commissioning 11 new reactors with total capacity of 16.5 GWe (and 9 replacement units totaling 10.5 GWe) to more than double nuclear capacity by 2030 was approved by the government in 2006 to enhance Ukraine's energy independence. See Table below.

The 2006 strategy envisaged completing Khmelnitski 3 & 4, which were respectively 75% and 28% complete when work stopped in 1990.

Initially it was expected that an international tender would open up the choice of technology and in March 2008 Areva, Westinghouse and South Korean suppliers were invited to bid, along with Atomstroyexport and Skoda – all involving pressurized water (PWR) types. In the event only Atomstroyexport and Korea HNP submitted bids, with the former being chosen to complete the partially-built units.

The government announced in September 2008 that construction of Khmelnitski 3 & 4 would resume in 2010 for completion in 2016 and 2017, these completion dates being reaffirmed in the mid-2011 energy policy update. In February 2011 a framework contract was signed for Atomstroyexport to complete them as AES-92 plants with V-392B reactors similar to those already on the site. In June 2010 an intergovernmental agreement was signed, under which Russia would largely finance the project. Some 85% of the estimated UAH 40 billion (EUR 3.7 billion) project was to be financed through a Russian loan, with 15% funding coming from Ukraine. The loan would be repaid within five years after the reactors go into service. In July 2012 the government confirmed the feasibility, costings and timing of the project – $4.9 billion total. The loan agreement was expected to be finalized by the end of 2012. At the end of 2013 the energy minister said that construction might resume in 2015. 

In December 2014 the prime minister reaffirmed the priority of completing the units by 2018, although Energoatom said that the government was in the process of revoking the intergovernmental agreement with Russia and amending the corresponding domestic legislation for K 3-4 construction by Atomstroyexport (now NIAEP-ASE).

In July 2014 cabinet reviewed the political situation with Russia, affirmed the priority of nuclear power, and said that a western-design reactor might be built at South Ukraine, which had access from the sea for large equipment delivery.

Ukraine power reactor construction, planned and proposed (all PWR type)

Reactor Type
V=PWR
MWe gross
Start construction Start operation
Khmelnitski 3
V-392
1000
9/85, 2015?
2019?
Khmelnitski 4
V-392
1000
6/86, 2015?
2019?
South Ukraine 4
?
1200
?
2020
New unit
 
1200
?
2020
Replacement 1
 
1000
2021
2026
Replacement 2
 
1000
2022
2027
Replacement 3
 
1200
2024
2030
Replacement 4
 
1000
2027
2033
Replacement 5
 
1000
2027
2033
Replacement 6
 
1000
2028
2034
Replacement 7
 
1200
2027
2033
Replacement 8
 
1200
2028
2034
Replacement 9
 
1000
2029
2035
Total (13)   14,000 MWe

In the WNA reactor Table, K3&4 are "planned", the other 11 (12,000 MWe) "proposed".

The mid-2011 energy policy revision proposes 2300 MWe of new capacity with decision on technology to be after 2015. Following this there will be a need for replacing plants which are decommissioned in the 2030s. Energoatom proposes to select a standard PWR (or possibly Candu) design from among leading vendors for the remaining planned units after Khmelnitski 3&4. This will involve consideration of local content in the plants. While Russian VVER technology is the most obvious fit, Energoatom's Atomproektengineering division provided a feasibility study recommending making provision for use of CANDU EC-6 reactors to the Ministry in October 2010.

Chigirin/ Chyhyryn on the Tyasmyn River in the Cherkassy Oblast in hte centre of the country is proposed as one site for a new nuclear plant.

In connection with the South Ukraine nuclear power plant, the South Ukraine Power Complex also consists of the 11.5 MWe Olexandrivka Hydro Power Plant on the river Pivdenny Buh, generating annually over 25 million kWh; and the 2 x 150 MWe Tashlyk Hydro Pumped Storage Power Plant commissioned in 2006-07, with total annual production of 175 million kWh. A third unit is due to be commissioned here in 2011, and three more re planned from 2015. The hydro units of the South Ukraine Power Complex belong to the country's nuclear utility Energoatom, and they serve as an important regulation of the peak capacity for load-following.

Energoatom has been planning to raise its electricity tariff in order to finance reorganization of the nuclear fuel cycle complex and to implement safety modernizations at all plants, as well as to enable funding of life extensions and construction of new plants. A 2013 EBRD report related to a €300 million loan for reactor safety upgrading forecast a wholesale price doubling from 27 kopek/kWh in 2012 to 54 kopek/kWh in 2020.

Nuclear supply chain

Atomenergomash’s Energomashspetsstal (EMSS), a castings and forgings manufacturer, is at Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region. Major upgrading of EMSS was completed in 2012, enabling it to make the forged components of large reactor pressure vessels such as those for VVER-TOI units. As well as power engineering, it has metallurgy, mechanical engineering and shipbuilding divisions, and earlier (to 1989) provided steam generators and reactor pressure vessels for Atommash at Volgodonsk in Russia.

JSC Turboatom at Kharkov in the northeast, established in 1934 and now 75.2% government-owned, is among the leading world turbine-building companies. It specializes in steam turbines for thermal and nuclear power plants, and has the capacity to produce 8000 MWe of such per year, with individual units up to 1100 MWe. It has supplied 110 turbines totalling 50 GWe for 24 nuclear power plants. Ukrainian power plants employ 47 Turboatom-made turbines and 43 Russian ones. It is offering also a 1250 MWe low-speed turbine for VVER-TOI reactors, and completed the design of this in 2013. 

In February 2010 Energoatom signed a cooperation agreement with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co (CGN) relating to nuclear power plant design, construction, operation and maintenance.

Uranium resources and mining

Ukraine has modest recoverable resources of uranium – 225,000 tU according to IAEA Red Book 2011, 62,000 tU of these recoverable at under $80/kgU, and 131,000 tU according to the Energy Ministry. Uranium mining began in 1948 at Pervomayskoye, and 65,000 tU have been produced so far. Current production is about 1000 tU/yr (960 tU in 2012, 922 tU in 2013). VostgGOK expects increased production in 2014.

The Vostochny Gorno-Obogatitel’niy Kombinat (VostGOK), Eastern Mining and Processing Enterprise or Skhidniy Gorno-Zdobychuval’nyi Kombinat (SkhidGZK in Ukrainian, or Skhidniy HZK) had been producing up to 830 tonnes of uranium per year – around 30% of the country's requirements. The central mill is at Zheltye Vody or Zhovti Vody (Ukr) in Dnepropetrovsk region, close to the border of Kirovograd. Mine production is from several deposits – Ingulskaya and Smolinskaya in Kirovograd region, and Safonovskoye in Nikolaev region. The main undeveloped deposit is said to be Mikhailovskoye in Kirovograd region. At Ingulskaya block leaching is undertaken, and a heap leach for low-grade ore has been set up at Smolinskaya, where beneficiated ore from radiometric sorting is railed to the central mill. VostGOK is also operating the Vatutinskoye, Central and Michurinskoye underground mines west of Zheltye Vody. The mineralization occurs in metasomatic deposits up to 1300 metres deep. Typical grade from these mines in metasomatic deposits is 0.1%U.

Ore is railed up to 100 to 150 km to the central mill and hydrometallurgical plant at Zheltye Vody in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, southeast of Kiev. The plant was built in 1958, rebuilt in the 1970s, and is due for further refurbishment. A UAH 400 million ($50 million) reconstruction of the hydrometallurgical plant is planned. VostGOK also plans a heap leach facility at Novokonstantinovskoye to treat one third of its ore, but the high-grade material from there will be railed east to these central facilities.

The Novokonstantinovskoye uranium project in the Kirovograd region is claimed to be the largest uranium deposit in Europe, and 93,600 tU resources at 0.14% are quoted (100,000 tU in a 2013 report). Ceremonial first production was in August 2008, but development then languished. Three levels have been opened up at 680 to 1090 metres depth. Russia's Rosatom had said it was keen to invest in developing the project, but agreement on equity was not reached. The government was seeking partners to help fund the $820 million development cost, but after becoming impatient with disputes, it legislated to put the project under VostGOK from December 2009.* In October 2010 VostGOK announced that production would commence in 2011, ramping up towards 1050 tU/yr. Russian overtures were again rejected. First production was in June 2011, with 99 tU projected to end of year. Production in 2012 was expected to be 180-190 tU, and then 424 tU in 2013, 760 tU in 2014, 1270 tU in 2015, and 2100 tU in 2017. VostGOK is aiming to invest over UAH 6 billion ($736 million) to develop the Novokonstantinovskoye mine, but financing this depends on securing long-term sales contracts with NAEC Energoatom.

* This edict was canceled in February 2010, and the regional Public Utility Company Nedra Kirovogradshchiny was then to take over responsibility. However, this was reversed in September, and the project reverted to VostGOK. Earlier, the project was being developed independently of VostGOK by the Novokonstantinov uranium development company, to produce up to 1500 t/yr by 2013, and 2500 t/yr eventually.

In June 2009 VostGOK announced that it planned to develop the Safonovskoye deposit in Kazankovsky District of Nikolaev Region, northwest Ukraine, using in situ leaching (ISL) to produce 100-150 tU/yr from 2011 in a sandstone deposit. A year later the target date was 2012, with 50 tU, reaching 150 tU/yr in 2014. This deposit had been mined with acid leaching to 1983, but mining was discontinued for environmental reasons.

In 2009 VostGOK continued re-treatment of tailings at Smolinskaya mine, and the same is planned for Ingulskaya mine, both for uranium recovery and environmental reasons.

Ukraine is giving priority and investing heavily to boost uranium production and this involves opening the way for foreign investment. It expects to produce 890 tU/yr in 2011 and hopes to fully satisfy its domestic demand of up to 1880 tU/yr by 2015. Projections to 2020 showed fairly steady production from existing mines at about 800 tU/yr, about 2500 tU/yr from Novokonstantinovskoye, and about 1500 tU/yr from new mines. A further target is 6400 tU/yr by 2030.

Australian-based Uran Ltd had agreed with Ukraine's Ministry of Fuel & Energy and VostGOK to carry out a feasibility study for ISL mining of the small Surskoye and Novogurevskoye uranium deposits in the east of the country, near VostGOK's existing operations. However, in 2008 Uran abandoned the prospect.*

* The agreements set out terms under which Uran might enter into a Joint Venture over the two sedimentary deposits in the Dnipropetrovsky region. However, in September 2009 the company said that "Following on the repeated failure of the Ukrainian uranium mining enterprise VostGOK to honour a number of agreements with Uran, a decision was made in 2008 to abandon our activities in Ukraine, at least until a more settled and effective political process is established." In 2011 it listed no Ukraine project.

Ukraine also has zirconium resources, and supplies zirconium to Russia.

There are legacy issues with former uranium mining and processing, particularly at the Pridniprovsky Chemical Plant (PHZ) at Dniprodzerzhinsk, not far from the Dnipro River. Nine tailings dams containing 42 million tonnes of mine tailings and 4 PBq of activity and derelict production facilities from operations over 1948-91 are the subject of a large-scale remediation program. PHZ processed ores from the Michurinskoye deposit (near Kirovograd), phosphate ores of the Melovoye deposit (near Shevchenko, now Aktau, Kazakhstan) and raw concentrate from GDR, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Fuel cycle

Ukrainian uranium concentrate and zirconium alloy are sent to Russia for fuel fabrication. The nuclear fuel produced from these Ukrainian components by TVEL in Russia then returns to Ukrainian NPPs.

The country depends primarily on Russia to provide other nuclear fuel cycle services also, notably enrichment. In June 2007 Ukraine agreed to investigate joining the new International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) at Angarsk, in Siberia, and to explore other areas of cooperation in the nuclear fuel cycle and building power reactors in other countries. Late in 2008 it signed an agreement for Ukraine's Nuclear Fuel holding company to take a 10% stake in the IUEC based at Angarsk, and in October 2010 this came into effect. Ukraine’s State Concern Nuclear Fuel apparently sells natural uranium to IUEC, which enriches it at Russian plants. Then IUEC sells the enriched uranium to the Fuel Company TVEL, which fabricates fuel assemblies and supplies them to NAEC Energoatom. The first commercial supply from IUEC was in November 2012 and the next is expected in 2013. The contracted volume is reported to be 60,000 SWU/yr, proportional to the Ukrainian shareholding. Ukraine requires about 1.96 million SWU/yr overall.

In order to diversify nuclear fuel supplies, Energoatom started implementation of the Ukraine Nuclear Fuel Qualification Project (UNFQP) for VVER-1000 fuel. The Project assumed the use of US-manufactured fuel in the VVER-1000 following the selection of Westinghouse as a vendor on a tender basis. In 2005, South Ukraine's third unit was the country's first to use the six lead test assemblies supplied by Westinghouse, which were placed into the reactor core together with Russian fuel for a period of pilot operation. A reload batch of 42 fuel assemblies was provided by Westinghouse in mid-2009 for a three-year period of commercial operation at the unit with regular monitoring and reporting. In addition to the initial supply of fuel from Westinghouse, other aims of the project included the transfer of technology for the design of nuclear fuel. Under a 2008 contract, Westinghouse supplied a total of 630 fuel assemblies for South Ukraine 2 & 3 and Zaporozhe 5. However, these trials to 2011 were deemed unsuccessful, with Energoatom claiming that manufacturing defects in the fuel led to a lengthy unscheduled outage at two of the units, while Westinghouse said that errors had been made during fuel loading. In April 2014 Energoatom renewed the Westinghouse fuel contract to 2020. Each reactor has 163 fuel assemblies.

In June 2010, Energoatom signed a long-term fuel supply contract with Russia's TVEL for all 15 reactors. Earlier, Rosatom had offered a substantial discount to Ukraine if it signed up with TVEL for 20 years. In 2010, TVEL sold Ukraine nuclear fuel for $608 million (€449 million). Ukraine is TVEL's biggest foreign client, totaling 55% of its exports. Ukraine continues to depend on TVEL for VVER-440 fuel for Rovno 1&2.

Following the annexation of Crimea by Russia, on 11 April 2014 Ukraine extended its 2008 contract with Westinghouse for fuel supply through to 2020. This fuel will be fabricated at the Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB plant at Vasteras in Sweden. Westinghouse commented that "This new agreement for Westinghouse VVER fuel design testifies to the quality of our fuel design and demonstrates that it has, in fact, operated without issue at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant, as confirmed by extensive and recent joint Energoatom and Westinghouse inspections. This contract extension ...... will allow Energoatom to continue diversification of its fuel supply. We expect that ..... Westinghouse will grow its share of the Ukrainian nuclear fuel market.” Russian sources have since suggested that the Westinghouse VVER fuel is unlicensed and dangerous. 

In June 2014 the energy minister said that “We will work with those [suppliers] who provide the best conditions for Ukraine to ensure reliability, operational safety and economic conditions" with its nuclear fuel. In September 2014 the energy ministry said that the country had sufficient fuel to last to June 2015, and was in negotiation with Rosatom regarding sending used fuel to Russia (though see CSFSF in waste section below). TVEL expects to deliver fuel through to November 2014, and the regulator SNRI said that Westinghouse fuel would be delivered to the South Ukraine plant in December 2014 and loaded soon afterwards.

While Ukraine is not imminently a part of the EU, it is germane to note that in May 2014 the EC said that as a condition of investment, any non-EU reactor design built in the EU must have more than one source of fuel.

Fuel fabrication plant

TVEL and Westinghouse both bid to build a fuel fabrication plant in Ukraine, and in September 2010 the Ministry of Fuels & Energy selected TVEL. The state-owned holding company Nuclear Fuel signed an agreement with TVEL for a 50-50 joint venture to build a plant to manufacture VVER-1000 fuel assemblies. Preparatory work has been undertaken for the US$ 460 million (€255 million) plant is now under construction at Smolino, Kirovograd region, 300 km southeast of Kiev, to produce about 400 fuel assemblies (200 tU) per year, but with eventual capacity of 800 per year. 

One condition was that Ukraine holds a controlling stake in the joint venture company that is to be established to manage the plant, despite relying on TVEL to provide 70% of the loan funds to construct it. Its equity has been quoted at 51%, other reports refer to ‘a golden share’. Another condition was that TVEL transfer the technology for the manufacture of fuel assemblies under a non-exclusive licence by 2020, for reactors both in Ukraine and abroad. Russia agreed to transfer fuel fabrication technology by 2020. Ukraine’s prime minister called it “the most substantial project towards energy independence in the history of independent Ukraine." The site is near Smolinskaya uranium mine. In December 2011 the private joint-stock company Nuclear Fuel Production Plant (NFPP) was set up to run it.

Site works started in 2012 and full construction was due to start in mid-2014, with the first phase to 2015 setting up capacity for fabrication of fuel rods and assemblies (using pellets from Ulba in Kazakhstan, 34% TVEL-owned), the second phase to 2020 involving production of fuel pellets. It was expected to start supplying fuel in 2016, and that it would cater all nuclear fuel needs of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, while surplus products could be exported under separate arrangements with TVEL, mainly to Eastern Europe. In July 2014 construction was delayed due to disagreement on terms and conditions of the contract, and the Ukraine deputy minister said that Westinghouse or Areva might be called upon. In August 2014 TVEL said it was ready to supply the equipment for the plant as soon as contract disagreements and financing were resolved, and Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP) said it had manufactured the process lines and was putting them into storage.

Earlier fuel cycle initiatives

An attempt was made in the 1990s to set up a complete suite of fuel cycle facilities other than enrichment, but this failed for political and financial reasons. The December 2006 decision to form Ukratomprom revived intentions to build a fuel fabrication plant. Ukraine has been seeking cooperation with other countries which have experience in the nuclear fuel cycle as a part of its effort to increase its supply of low-cost nuclear electricity and to reduce its imports of natural gas and other energy sources from Russia. In December 2005 Ukraine and the EU signed an energy cooperation agreement which links the country more strongly to western Europe in respect to both nuclear energy and electricity supply.

In May 2008 Ukraine's Ministry of Fuels and Energy signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to develop CANDU technology. This could provide synergies with the existing Ukrainian VVER reactors by burning uranium recovered from the VVERs' used fuel. (Such recycled uranium has fissile content similar to natural uranium and can be directly used in CANDU reactors). The technology concerned involves either reprocessing or DUPIC – Direct Use of spent PWR fuel In Candu reactors. This has long been mooted by AECL, but is further ahead in South Korea than elsewhere due to their mix of PWR and CANDU reactor technologies. (Use of reprocessed uranium in CANDU reactors is being trialled in China.)

Radioactive Waste Management

There is no intention to close the fuel cycle in Ukraine, though the possibility remains under consideration. In 2008 the National Target Environmental Program of Radioactive Waste Management was approved. Storage of used fuel for at least 50 years before disposal remains the policy. The new program meets the requirements of European legislation and recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Its implementation will create an integrated system of radioactive waste of all types and categories for 50 years. In 2014 Energoatom commenced a study on having used fuel of both TVEL and Westinghouse origin reprocessed by Areva at La Hague in France.

Used fuel is mostly stored on site though some VVER-440 fuel was again being sent to Russia for reprocessing. At Zaporozhe a long-term dry storage facility for spent fuel has operated since 2001, but other VVER-1000 spent fuel has been sent to Russia for storage, at a cost to Ukraine of over $100 million per year. A centralised dry storage facility for spent fuel (CSFSF) was proposed for construction in the government's 2006 energy strategy.

Preliminary investigations have shortlisted sites for a deep geological repository for high- and intermediate-level wastes including all those arising from Chernobyl decommissioning and clean-up.

A new facility for treatment solid radioactive waste is under construction at the site of Zaporozhe nuclear power plant, to be commissioned in 2015. It will be fitted with a state-of-the-art incinerator of Danish design.

CSFSF

In December 2005, Energoatom signed a US$ 150 million agreement with the US-based Holtec International to implement the Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF) project for Ukraine's VVER reactors. Holtec's work involves design, licensing, construction, commissioning of the facility, and the supply of transport and vertical ventilated dry storage systems for used VVER nuclear fuel, initially 2500 VVER-1000 and 1100 VVER-440 assemblies. This was projected for completion in 2008, but was held up pending legislation. Then in October 2011 parliament passed a bill on management of spent nuclear fuel, and this was approved in the upper house in February 2012. It provides for construction of the dry storage facility within the Chernobyl exclusion area, between the resettled villages Staraya Krasnitsa, Buryakovka, Chistogalovka and Stechanka in Kiev Region, southeast of Chernobyl. The country requires all spent fuel to be stored in double wall multi-purpose canisters (DWC).

The new storage facility will become a part of the common spent nuclear fuel management complex of the state-owned company Chernobyl NPP. In April 2014 the government approved the 45 hectare site for the facility, to take fuel from Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnitski. The total storage capacity of the facility will be 16,530 VVER-440 and VVER-1000 fuel assemblies, and expected to cost $460 million, including 'start-up complex' $160 million. Stage 1 for 3600 fuel assemblies is due to open in 2015, though Holtec quotes three years for construction from mid-2014, when the project was reactivated with a new contract. The cost of the project is equivalent to four years of payments to Russia for storing Ukraine's fuel from the three plants (at $160 million pa in 2006). The facility will use Holtec’s HI-STORM 190 ventilated casks for storage, and HI-STAR 190 transport casks will be used for transport to the site. Some of these have high-burnup fuel and are hot, with up to 38 kW heat load. The final design capacity of the facility will allow storage of 16,530 used fuel assemblies, including 12,010 VVER-1000 assemblies and 4520 VVER-440 assemblies. Construction of the CSFSF commenced in August 2014, with Holtec acting as the general contractor of the project, while two Ukrainian companies, YUTEM Engineering Ltd and Ukrtransbud Inc, build it.

From 2011, high-level wastes from reprocessing Ukrainian fuel was to be returned from Russia to Ukraine and go to the CSFSF.

Chernobyl

Used fuel from decommissioned RBMK reactors at Chernobyl nuclear power plant will be stored in a new dry storage facility being built a few kilometres from the plant, and not far from CSFSF. In September 2007 Holtec International and the Ukrainian government signed a contract to complete the placement of Chernobyl's used nuclear fuel in dry storage systems at the Chernobyl Interim Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility (ISF-2). Removing the radioactive fuel from the three undamaged Chernobyl reactors is essential to the start of demolishing them. Holtec will complete the dry storage project, begun in 1999 by the French company Framatome (now Areva), and is utilising as much of the previous work on the project as possible, with the protection of public health and safety as the overriding criteria. The project requires dividing over 21,000 fuel assemblies into 42,000 fuel bundles in a custom-engineered hot cell. The Chernobyl ISF-2 dry storage project fixed price is US$ 411 million and is due to be completed in 2018. There is full endorsement from the Assembly of Donors, who provide funding for Chernobyl remediation and decommissioning.

Also at Chernobyl, Nukem has constructed an Industrial Complex for Solid Radwaste Management (ICSRM) which was handed over in April 2009. In this, solid low- and intermediate-level wastes accumulated from the power plant operations and the decommissioning of reactor blocks 1 to 3 is conditioned by incineration, high-force compaction, and cementation, as required and then packaged for disposal. In addition, highly radioactive and long-lived solid waste is sorted out for temporary separate storage. A low-level waste repository has also been built at the Vektor complex 17 km away.

In 2013, a four-year Ukraine-NATO project began to clean up low-level radioactive waste at nine military facilities in the country. EUR 25 million was budgeted. The wastes will be buried in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Decommissioning

Four Chernobyl RBMK-1000 reactors, plus two almost-completed ones, are being decommissioned. Unit 4, which was destroyed in the 1986 accident, is enclosed in a large shelter and a new, more durable containment structure is being built, for completion in 2016.

This New Safe Confinement (NSC) project is expected to cost about €1.5 billion. In September 2007 a €430 million contract was signed with a French-led consortium Novarka to build this new shelter, to enclose both the destroyed Chernobyl 4 reactor and the hastily-built 1986 structure over it. It is a metal arch 110 metres high and spanning 257 m, which is being built adjacent and will then be moved into place.

The International Chernobyl Shelter Fund facilitated by the EBRD was set up in 1997. In May 2005, international donors made pledges worth approximately €150 million towards the new safe confinement. The largest contribution came from the G8 and the EU. Russia contributed to the fund for the first time and other fund members, which include the USA, increased their contributions, with the Ukrainian government pledging some €15 million. The European Commission has committed €239.5 million since 1997, making it the main donor.

In November 2014 the EBRD said the overall €2.15 billion Shelter Implementation Plan including the NSC had a funding shortfall of €615 million. It proposed an additional contribution of €350 million by the EBRD in anticipation of a €165 million contribution by the G7/European Commission and the balance of €100 million by non-G7 donors. "The G7 leads the effort to mobilize the additional funds and will organize a pledging event in the spring of 2015," the EBRD said. "Should pledging efforts fall short of the amount allocated to non-G7 donors, the EBRD would step in."

Units 1-3 are undergoing decommissioning conventionally – the first RBMK units to do so – and work will accelerate when the new dry storage facility for fuel is built (see Waste Management > Chernobyl above).

R&D

Ukraine has had two research reactors, a very small one (200 kW) at the Naval Engineering school in the Sevastopol National University of Nuclear Energy and Industry in Crimea, and a 10 MW tank type one – VVR-M – which was commissioned in 1960 at the Institute for Nuclear Research in Kiev. This was converted to LEU fuel in 2008 under the US Global Threat Reduction Program, but is due to close in 2015. Plans for a $250 million replacement were announced in 2008. The small IR-100 training reactor at Sevastopol was taken over in the Russian annexation of Crimea, and Ukraine has raised with IAEA the safeguards implication.

In 2012 the government approved construction of KIPT Experimental Neutron Source at the Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology, using LEU. It is basically an accelerator system, subcritical. The USA is providing technical assistance and $25 million towards it, the total contribution being over $70 million. The facility is planned to start operation in March 2015. It is intended for research in nuclear physics as well as isotope production, particularly for nuclear medicine.

Organisation

In 1996 the former nuclear operating entity Goskomatom set up a new corporate nuclear utility, National Nuclear Energy Generating Company (NNEGC) Energoatom. NNEGC Energoatom is responsible for the safety of all Ukrainian NPPs under the law on Nuclear Power Use and Radiation Safety. Its main task is construction of new power capacities and life extension for the existing plants, procurement of new fuel and transportation of used fuel, establishment of the national infrastructure for management of irradiated fuel, ensuring physical security of nuclear power facilities, and professional training and development of personnel. Energoatom's initial priorities were to increase safety, bring load factors up to 83-85%, and extend the working lives of the reactors by 10-15 years (at about US$ 150 million per VVER-1000 reactor).

Goskomatom was replaced by two Departments within the Fuel & Energy Ministry: a Department for Nuclear Energy, responsible for civil nuclear power plants operation, and a Department for Atomic Industry, responsible for the development of nuclear fuel cycle.

The regulator is the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRI or SNRC), now an independent authority (it was until 2001 under the Ministry of Environment Protection & Nuclear Safety).

The 1995 law on Nuclear Energy Use and Radiation Safety establishes the legal basis of the industry and included a provision for the operating plant to have full legal responsibility for the consequences of any accident. The 1995 law on Radioactive Waste Management complements this, and the consequent state program was approved in 2002.

Nuclear industry structure and the Russian connection

Late in 2006 the government moved to set up a new national nuclear industry entity - Ukratomprom, as a vertically-integrated nuclear holding company reporting to Energy Ministry and cabinet. Ukratomprom was to consist of six state-owned enterprises including Energoatom, the VostGOK uranium mining company, and the Novokonstantinov uranium development company, with assets of some US$ 10 billion, including $6.35 billion for Energoatom. Three major projects were to be launched in 2007, including a $1875 million uranium production venture comprising refurbishment of VostGOK's hydrometallurgical plant and construction of a uranium mill at Novokonstantinov. Then it was announced that Energoatom would not be included in Ukratomprom, and soon afterwards plans were abandoned.

Russia has made strenuous efforts to regain its influence in Ukraine, and early in 2010 various proposals for civil nuclear joint ventures were put forward. In April the Russian president suggested "full-scale cooperation of our nuclear industries," and that the two countries establish a large holding company that would include power generation, heavy engineering and fuel cycle facilities. As a first stage, he suggested a merger involving Ukrainian uranium mining with Russia's Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant in Siberia, which produces VVER fuel. Also he noted that Ukraine's Turboatom was producing large steam turbines solely for Russia. Furthermore, all Ukrainian reactors need modernization which, he said, could be most effective with close cooperation of Russian enterprises, at the same time as opening access for Ukrainian partners to the Russian market as it greatly expands nuclear capacity. In addition, Russia and Ukraine could collaborate in foreign markets on the basis of financing provided by the Russian government and leading financial institutions. Ukraine's president agreed in principle that some of these particular suggestions might have merit.

Rosatom followed up with the suggestion that if Ukraine signed long-term (25-year) fuel supply contracts with Russia it would enjoy a discount of more than US$ 1 billion. Furthermore, Rosatom was ready to transfer up to 50% of the shares in the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant to Ukrainian partners and establish domestic fuel production, either “either [as] a branch of the combine where we can be shareholders together, or a new plant in the Ukrainian territory." Rosatom reiterated its long-standing desire to take a share of Ukraine's Novokonstantinov uranium project, and also proposed a joint venture bringing together the heavy engineering assets of Russia's Atomenergomash and Ukraine's Turboatom at Kharkov.

Energoatom has set up Atomproektengineering to handle new nuclear power projects, including investment, design, and construction. It has already been involved with Khmelnitski 3&4 (see below). In October 2010 Atomenergomash announced that it and NAEC Energoatom would set up a strategic consortium to localize nuclear equipment manufacture in Ukraine, particularly in relation to Khmelnitski 3&4.

Ukraine's plans for fuel cycle developments are to develop uranium mining and fuel fabrication, but not conversion, enrichment or reprocessing - these being done in Russia, albeit with some Ukraine equity in IUEC (see above).

Ukraine's JSC Turboatom at Kharkov, established in 1934 and now 75.2% government-owned, is among the leading world turbine-building companies. It specializes in steam turbines for thermal and nuclear power plants, and has the capacity to produce 8000 MWe of such per year, with individual units up to 1100 MWe. It has supplied 110 turbines totaling 50 GWe for 24 nuclear power plants. Ukrainian power plants employ 47 Turboatom-made turbines plus 43 Russian ones. Turboatom's major competitors are the Power Machines Co in Russia and Germany's Siemens. Much of its production in 2010 was for Russia.

Non-proliferation

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Ukraine negotiated to repatriate nuclear warheads and missiles to Russia in return for nuclear fuel supplies. Ukraine then joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapons state. Its safeguards agreement under the NPT came into force in 1998, and in 2005 the Additional Protocol to this agreement was ratified.

Main sources:
Perera, Judith 2003, Nuclear Power in the Former USSR, McCloskey, UK.
Ukrainian Ministry of Fuel & Energy http://mpe.kmu.gov.ua
National Energy Regulatory Commission http://www.snrc.gov.ua/nuclear/en/index
National Nuclear Energy Generating Company ENERGOATOM http://www.energoatom.kiev.ua/
IAEA 1999: http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Features/Chernobyl-15/shelter-fund.pdf

 

Appendix: The K2-R4 saga

In the 1990s both the government and Energoatom were determined to bring two new reactors – Khmelnitski 2 and Rovno 4 (K2-R4) – into operation as soon as possible. Both reactors were 80% complete when a halt was imposed in 1990.

In 1995 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Governments of the G7 countries, the EC and the Ukrainian government which required closure of the operating Chernobyl reactors. Thus, Chernobyl reactors were shut down – the last in December 2000.

The Memorandum stipulated the agreement on international financial aid to Ukraine to support Chernobyl decommissioning, power sector restructuring, completion of K2-R4 nuclear reactors, thermal and hydro plant rehabilitation, construction of a pumped storage plant, and to support energy efficiency projects in accordance with Ukraine's energy sector strategy.

In 2000 the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) approved (by an 89% vote apart from abstentions) a US$ 215 million loan towards completion of K2-R4. This EBRD funding, though a modest part of the US$ 1480 million estimated to be required, was a key factor in plans for their completion to western safety standards. Conditions on the loan included safety enhancement of all 13 Ukraine nuclear power reactors, independence for the country's nuclear regulator, and electricity market reform.

Following approval of the EBRD loan, the European Commission (EC) approved a US$ 585 million loan to Energoatom. The EC said that approval of this Euratom funding "a few days before the permanent closure of Chernobyl gives a clear sign of the Commission's commitment to nuclear safety ... as well as to the deepening of [EU] relations with Ukraine." It "will finance the completion, modernisation and commissioning of two third-generation nuclear units". The EC pointed out that it and the EBRD had concluded that the project met all safety, environmental, economic and financial criteria.

Russia earlier provided US$ 225 million credit for K2/R4 equipment and fuel, then in 2002 a Russian loan of US$ 44 million for completion of the units was approved. The arrangement covered goods and services from Russia. It followed signing of a US$ 144 million agreement in June, including about US$ 100 million of fuel.

However the promised loans of US$ 215 million and the Euratom's US$ 585 million were deferred late in 2001 because the government had baulked at doubling the wholesale price of power to USD 2.5 cent/kWh as required by EBRD. Ukraine also rejected almost all approved Russian loans. The Ukrainian government then approved estimates for the completion, site works and upgrades for the K2 - R4 nuclear power reactors, at US$ 621 million and US$ 642 million respectively. With local finance and a bond issue, Energoatom proceeded with work on both units.

In July 2004, prior to start-up of the two units, the EBRD finally approved a scaled-down loan of US$ 42 million. This sum was matched by US$ 83 million from Euratom, approved by the EC. The project finances the post-start-up component of a safety and modernisation program developed for K2 and R4.

The loan was approved on condition that revised tariffs are implemented in order to fund upgrading of all 13 operating power reactors in Ukraine to K2-R4 standards, that a decommissioning fund is set up and "an internationally agreed level of nuclear liability insurance" is reached.

The program on modernisation and safety improvement of K2-R4 was established taking into account IAEA's recommendations. It consists of 147 "pre-commissioning", as well as "post-commissioning" and "before and after commissioning" measures. In 2003-2004, Framatome ANP, an independent expert of the EBRD, together with the local Riskaudit Company, reviewed the implementation status and sufficiency of the program. They assessed positively the result of this program's implementation to date. The post-commissioning modernization measures were completed in November 2010, under the US$ 125 million budget from EBRD and Euratom.

In August 2004 the Ukrainian President said that Western governments had failed to honour their 1995 undertakings to assist his country in exchange for closing the Chernobyl plant, particularly in relation to the Khmelnitski 2 and Rovno 4 completion, grid infrastructure and a pumped storage hydro plant.