Ukraine greenlights first steps on new nuclear reactor builds

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

Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers has greenlighted the preliminary phases of building two $5 billion Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors at the Kmelnitsky nuclear power plant once the Russian invasion ends, the embattled country’s energy officials have said, according to World Nuclear News.

The cabinet-level approval builds on the deal Kyiv and Westinghouse signed in June that outlined plans for the US-based nuclear corporation to construct a total of nine new reactors in Ukraine, as well as supply all nuclear fuel burned in the country’s 15 Soviet-built reactors.

According to Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko, the reactors will be ready for startup between 2030 to 2023, depending on the outcome of the war with Russia, which began when Moscow invaded last February. The cabinet decision means that a technical and economic feasibility study and other project documentation can progress.

“The Cabinet of Ministers decided that we are starting to develop technical documentation for a new type of reactors that have never been built in Ukraine,” Halushchenko said, according to WWN. “In other words, we have ended the era of the creation of nuclear energy based on Soviet technology.”

Since the early 2000s, Ukraine has worked with Westinghouse to produce fuel for its Soviet-built reactors — which before the war supplied about 50 percent of the country’s electricity — in an attempt to end Kyiv’s dependence on fuel shipments from Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation.

At present, six of Ukraine’s 15 reactors have been converted to Westinghouse fuel — two reactors at the South Ukraine plant and four at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is currently besieged by Russian troops.

The June reactor construction deal, and its subsequent cabinet approval, is more ambitious, given the current state of war and the hundreds of billions of dollars that will be required in the war’s aftermath to rebuild even basic infrastructure, to say nothing of nuclear power plants.

Still, Westinghouse is only the latest among a raft of western corporations and financial institutions — among them Blackrock, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and others —to put their chips on an eventually victorious Ukraine.

“Construction of АР 1000 power units in Ukraine opens the way to the future of the country’s nuclear energy industry,” Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s nuclear operator was quoted by WNN as saying.

“We welcome this decision of the government, with which we continue the implementation of modern technologies, strengthen our energy front and accelerate the reorientation of Ukrainian energy to Western standards,” he added.