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South Ukraine NPP shuts down 3rd power unit over possible US nuclear fuel problems

January 19, 18:50 UTC+3 KIEV
The NPP’s second power unit is under planned repairs
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KIEV, January 19. /TASS/. The third unit of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant has been disconnected from the power grid to remove problems with vacuum in the turbogenerator’s condensate, the NPP’s press office reported on Thursday.

"At 12 hours and 29 minutes on January 19, 2017, the third power unit of the South Ukraine NPP was switched off the power grid in an emergency mode to determine the causes of vacuum deterioration in the turbogenerator’s condenser. During the transitional processes of the power unit’s switch-off, no violations of the terms and limits of safe operation were registered," the press office said.

The radiation background within the NPP zone complies with the natural background, it said.

At present, the NPP’s second power unit is under planned repairs. The South Ukraine NPP operates three power units with a capacity of 1,000 MW each, supplying electricity to the Nikolayev, Kherson and Odesa regions.

American fuel

The South Ukraine NPP’s power units have been shut down on numerous occasions after the activation of the emergency protection system. Specifically, on May 20, 2016, the NPP’s second power unit stopped generating electricity for the power grid. Some Ukrainian media outlets attributed the incident to the improper work of nuclear fuel produced by the US company Westinghouse Electric.

Ukraine’s Energoatom, the operator of the country’s NPPs, refused then to answer TASS’ question about a link between the situation at the nuclear power plant and the use of US fuel there. However, in early June, after major repairs at the NPP’s third power unit, Energoatom reported that 83 fuel elements from Westinghouse and 80 elements from Russia’s TVEL had been loaded into its active zone.

Energoatom and Westinghouse have been cooperating since 2000 under the project of introducing US fuel at Ukrainian NPPs.

In April 2012, damages of US fuel cassettes were found at the third power unit of the South Ukraine NPP. A special inter-departmental commission found that the damage had been caused by design defects. In 2014, the Ukrainian leadership readdressed the issue of diversifying nuclear fuel deliveries and the contract with Westinghouse was extended to 2020.

Currently, Westinghouse fuel assemblies are loaded into the third power unit of the South Ukraine NPP. As Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulation Inspection earlier told TASS, the department "has no principled claims to the operation of Westinghouse fuel at this power unit."

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