Westinghouse to grow Ukrainian fuel presence

Reaches agreement to increase use of its nuclear fuel

Giving no specifics, Cranberry-based Westinghouse Electric Co. announced this week that it has reached an agreement with a Ukrainian utility to “significantly expand” its nuclear fuel deliveries to the Eastern European country through 2020.

Currently, Westinghouse fuel is being used in two units at one nuclear power station, in Energoatom’s South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, where it shares space with nuclear fuel made by Russian company TVEL.

Russia has a near monopoly over Ukraine’s nuclear power, which supplies half the electricity for the country. It built Ukraine’s nuclear reactors and, until a quasi-political experiment orchestrated in part by the U.S. government first brought Westinghouse fuel to the former Soviet republic in 2003, Russia supplied all of its nuclear fuel.

After Westinghouse and Energoatom made the announcement of the new deal on Dec. 30, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a tart statement invoking the 1987 nuclear accident at Chernobyl and suggesting that Ukraine is sacrificing the safety of its citizens to further a political agenda.

Westinghouse, instead, offered optimism for new opportunities in Ukraine, which has been in political and, at times, physical conflict with Russia since the annexation of Crimea earlier this year.

“We expect that with continued superior results and competitive efficiency of our fuel design, Westinghouse will continue to grow its share of the Ukrainian nuclear fuel market,” said Yves Brachet — Westinghouse president for Europe, Middle East and Africa — in a statement.

Westinghouse has much riding on its fuel being accepted at Russian reactors, which not only comprise a large chunk of nuclear capacity in Europe but are also a growing presence in developing countries.

Earlier attempts to fuel Russian-made reactors in the Czech Republic ended with technical problems, which also briefly threatened Westinghouse’s operations in Ukraine. But in April, Energoatom extended Westinghouse’s contract to supply fuel at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant through 2020.

According to Hans Korteweg, a spokesman for Westinghouse, the most recent deal will allow Westinghouse fuel to be co-loaded with Russian fuel at additional reactors.

“It is standard practice around the world to have two fuel vendors in the same core,” he said.

Mr. Korteweg said Energoatom would be more suited to offer specifics about the deal, but the Ukrainian utility could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.

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