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Medvedev voices safety concerns over Ukraine’s switch from Russian to US nuclear fuel

December 15, 2014, 7:36 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, December 15. /TASS/. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine’s switch to use upgraded nuclear fuel from the United States at its nuclear power plants (NPP), built in the Soviet times, might bear dangerous consequences.

In his article titled “Russia and Ukraine: Life by New Rules” published by Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily on Monday, Medvedev wrote: “We cannot but be concerned with the intention of the Ukrainian authorities to undermine production cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy.”

“The grim example of the dangerous impact of politics on the economy may be found in attempts to upload American fuel in Soviet-made power units of the Ukrainian NPPs,” Medvedev said.

The Russian prime minister said he was positive that “experiments conducted under pressure from the US manufacturers were technically unsafe,” adding that “attempts to substitute Russian produced nuclear fuel with the American were already made earlier in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, for instance, in the Czech Republic.”

“And these experiments resulted in serious technical problems and shutdown of reactors,” he said.

US-based Westinghouse and Ukraine’s national nuclear power company Energoatom have been cooperating on nuclear fuel supplies since 2000 and in April both companies extended a contract on supplies for Ukrainian nuclear power plants until 2020.

Energoatom and Westinghouse initially launched a project for diversifying nuclear fuel supplies in a bid to reduce Ukraine’s energy dependence on neighboring Russia.

Russia’s manufacturer of nuclear fuel, TVEL, was formerly the major fuel supplier for Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

Energoatom CEO Yury Nedashkovsky said in mid-September that supplies of Russian fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants did not cease and were delivered in line with the schedule.

Safety concerns regarding Ukraine’s switch to the US supplied nuclear fuel were repeatedly voiced by Russian experts and some officials, including by Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of Russian state-run nuclear corporation Rosatom.

The world’s worst nuclear accident happened in 1986 in Ukraine, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The explosion there and ensuing fallout from the critical nuclear meltdown contaminated vast areas in the then-Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

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