Westinghouse to supply all of Ukraine’s nuclear fuel

Control room The control room of a nuclear reactor. Credit: Getty Images

Ukraine has signed a deal for the US nuclear power company Westinghouse to supply fuel to all of its atomic power plants in an effort to end the country’s reliance on Russian supplies, Ukraine’s state nuclear company said on Friday.

The agreement also increases the number of new nuclear reactors Westinghouse will build to nine from an earlier five, and the company will establish an engineering center in the country.

Building on earlier agreements, the deal with Westinghouse stipulates that the company will supply fuel to all of Ukraine’s atomic plants.

Nuclear power covers around a half of all Ukrainian electricity needs and the energy minister said that in future Ukraine could also be a supplier of electricity to western Europe.

“We will modernize our fleet of nuclear power units, which will produce clean, safe and reliable energy without any Russian influence,” Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said, according to a statement by the state nuclear energy company Energoatom.

Energoatom operates four nuclear plants in Ukraine, with a total of 15 units, each of which was built during Soviet times. As of June 1, Energoatom said that all the plants were operating, with eight of the reactors currently connected to the grid, and the remainder shut for maintenance or being held in reserve.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi continues to seek access to Zaporizhyzhya, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, but has so far not managed to get agreement for inspectors to visit the plant – which, while being operated by its Ukrainian staff, is under the control of Russian military forces.

The IAEA currently has a team at Chernobyl, representing its second visit there within six weeks. During the visit the team will assess radiation protection and the safety of waste management.

Chernobyl was occupied by Russian forces from February 24 until the end of March, when they withdrew. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has financed much of the cleanup at the site, estimated last month that Russian troops caused at least £100 million in damage to Chernobyl infrastructure and equipment.