Following the February coup staged in Kiev, the decision to get U.S.-based energy companies back to work in Ukraine was on the priority list of the new regime in Ukraine. Westinghouse Electric Co. of Pennsylvania said on April 3 it is in negotiations to extend its contract with Ukraine energy operator Energoatom to supply nuclear fuel for three reactors.
The US interest is justified; Ukraine's power sector is the tenth largest in the world and the fifth largest in Europe in terms of nuclear reactors on its soil. The country boasts 15 nuclear power generating units at four nuclear power plants. The largest nuclear facility in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, is located in Ukraine. All reactors are Russia-produced VVER type.
After the first «orange» revolution in 2004-2005, when US proxy Victor Yushenko came to power, an agreement was reached with American Westinghouse on the supply of nuclear fuel ТВС-W for Soviet reactors. In April of 2012, there was malfunctioning of ТВС-W installations at the South Ukrainian nuclear power plant. They were associated with structural deficiencies of the manufacturer. The Energoatom’s (National State Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine) damage was $175 million.
S. Barbashev, the Vice-president of Ukrainian Nuclear Society, said that technologically US-produced installations were not up to par. He believes the US technology has great deficiencies and is not compatible with Ukrainian reactors. V. Nikitin of UkrAtomEnergoBud has said the Westinghouse choice as an alternative supplier was politically motivated and economically unreasonable since the US-made fuel is 30% more costly than the fuel imported from Russia.
Other Westinghouse fuel users have faced the same kind of problems with nuclear plants: Krško in Slovenia, Loviisa in Finland and Temelin in the Czech Republic. All these countries have refused to deal with the US supplier.
In 2013 all Westinghouse fuel assemblies were taken away from the second unit of the South Ukrainian nuclear plant. About the same time, the Yanukovych administration officials announced the start of construction of a nuclear fuel plant in the village of Smolino, Kirovograd region. The project is one of the most ambitious engineering projects in the world and is to be implemented by the joint Russian-Ukrainian consortium «Nuclear Fuel Production Plant,» consisting of TVEL (Russia) and the State Concern «Nuclear Fuel». The plant will satisfy the needs of all the Ukrainian NPPs in nuclear fuel. The first stage of the facility is to be commissioned by the end of 2015. Looking at the dates one can see the decision to reject further cooperation with Americans coincided with the start of Euromaidan protests in Kiev.
One may wonder if there is any link between the European Union, Ukrainian nuclear power plants and the failures of Westinghouse. Here is an explanation. After the initialing of the association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, Brussels unexpectedly said it wanted EURATOM to be a Ukrainian association partner. EURATOM comprises a few full-cycle operators like: French-German Areva NP, British-Dutch-German URENCO, which is going to be sold to the Areva NP mentioned above and French state company EDF. Aveva NP is active on US market being a leading producer of heat generating elements manufactured under Westinghouse license. Back to square one!
European heat generating elements producers have their own interests in Ukraine. It is demonstrated in the cases of Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania, Kozloduy and Belene plants in Bulgaria or Bohunice plant in Slovakia. These countries faced the same condition for entering the European Union – the closure of plants able to compete with French facilities. As a result, energy prices in Lithuania doubled, heating costs increased four times and mass protests sparked in Bulgaria after a man unable to pay electricity bills set himself on fire.
That’s what is in store for Ukraine. On the one hand, they make it use American nuclear fuel to get the nuclear stations out of order. On the other hand, the association agreement with the European Union clearly states that Ukrainian internal and export electricity prices are to be the same. Having done away with Ukrainian nuclear plants, European suppliers will guarantee «Paris level» prices for supplies to Ukraine. Besides, The European Union will have unlimited access to the uranium deposits in the Dnepropetrovsk and Kirovograd regions. That’s where a joint Russia-Ukraine nuclear fuel production facility was being constructed. The project will not be implemented now and the fuel will be delivered straight to the European Union to return to Ukraine in the form of kilowatts to be paid for at European prices.
It’s not everything. After recycling, the Russian fuel designed for VVER reactors has been stored in Russia. The Westinghouse waste will have to be stored in Ukraine. Western nuclear operators view Ukraine as a giant graveyard of nuclear waste. Actually the process is underway.
In 2005 US-British consortium Holtec-BNFL won a tender to build a centralized nuclear waste storage in Ukraine. It was planned to launch it in 2015 but the project has not entered the active phase of construction as of now. Meanwhile 2 thousand tons of fuel are stored in densely packed spent fuel wet pools. Actually the storages are nothing else but makeshift dumps. There are such graveyards in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
According to former member of Ukrainian parliament Vadim Kolesnichenko, the goal of US expansion into the Ukrainian nuclear market is the elimination of Ukrainian nuclear energy infrastructure. When it becomes a thing of the past, Ukraine will have to buy energy in Europe at quite different prices. It’s all part of a larger plan aimed at making Ukraine a colonial state.
The regime in Kiev is ready to pay this price in order to convert the country into a bridgehead against Russia.