Ukraine not to ship spent nuclear fuel to Russia

Publish date: June 25, 2001

Written by: Vladislav Nikifоrov

Ukraine works intensively on developing dry storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel, instead of costly shipment of the nuclear fuel to Russia.

Following up its strategy of dry storage facilities construction, instead of shipment of the spent nuclear fuel to Russia, Ukraine announced a plan on building a dry storage on the territory of Chernobyl NPP, which has been recently shut down for good, UNIAN reports. The facility should be capable to receive fuel from VVER-1000 type reactors from all Ukrainian NPPs. Although it was not finally agreed.

As alternative to this solution also dry storage container facilities at all nuclear NPPs are considered. Such storage containers, paid by the US, have been already installed at Zaporozhye NPP. They are, however, not in operation due to disagreement with local authorities which had been promised some new social projects in exchange for nuclear facility operation. The facility was granted, however, all required licences to begin operation from the local nuclear regulatory.

Today all spent nuclear fuel from Ukrainian VVER-1000 reactors is sent to the special storage in Krasnoyarsk in Russia, while VVER-440 fuel is sent to Mayak plant in the southern Ural for reprocessing. According to the Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Ministry, dry storage in Ukraine will be 10 times cheaper than sending it to Russia. Chernobyl spent nuclear fuel is stored in Soviet design facilities, but thanks to the international aid, a new facility is to be constructed where Chernobyl spent nuclear fuel could be safely stored for minimum 50 years.

Currently 5 out of 13 operating nuclear reactors in Ukraine have fresh nuclear fuel, and only one nuclear shipment was carried out while seven shipments are scheduled. Ukrainian officials say that each VVER-1000 reactor has 50-55 fuel assemblies replaced each year – one third of a VVER-1000 reactor core. Annual shipments of spent nuclear fuel to Russia cost Ukraine around $100 million a year. The price tag for these services went up in 1998 when Krasnoyarsk County Governor, Alexander Lebed, said his county would not accept spent fuel from Ukraine for “small money”, so the rate was increased from $285 to $330 per kilogram.

Intention of the Ukraine shows no sign of future nuclear shipments to Russia what undermines the lucrative plans of the Russian nuclear ministry to earn $20 billion on spent nuclear fuel import.