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Safety concerns over Ukraine’s switch to US nuclear fuel played down — official

September 29, 2014, 20:29 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The International Atomic Energy Agency has no claims to Ukraine concerning the safety of nuclear energy
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© EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

MOSCOW, September 29. /ITAR-TASS/. Alexander Bychkov, a deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), played down on Monday safety concerns over Ukraine’s recent decision to purchase upgraded fuel for its nuclear power plants from US-based Westinghouse.

“All issues concerning safety should be addressed to state bodies, which approve the use of [nuclear] fuel,” Bychkov said adding that in his opinion the issue at questions should not be “politicized.”

“Some countries in fact want to have another supplier. This is a standard market behavior for an operator,” Bychkov said.

He said the IAEA conduct regular missions analyzing safety standards at nuclear power plants.

“The agency has no claims whatsoever to Ukraine concerning the safety of nuclear energy,” Bychkov said adding that all nuclear power “plants in Ukraine have a high level of protection from terrorists and other unsanctioned interventions.”

Ukraine switches to US nuclear fuel

Mikhail Gashev, the first deputy chairman of the Ukrainian State Inspection of Nuclear Regulations, said last week that he signed three fundamental documents regarding supplies of upgraded nuclear fuel TBC-WR from US company Westinghouse.

According to Gashev “the fuel will be delivered to the South-Ukrainian NPP in December and uploaded into the third power unit of the plant in late December or early January.”

Sergei Kondratyev, a senior expert with the Russian Institute for Energy and Finance, voiced concern last week over the sharp switch from Russian-to US-produced nuclear fuel as it could pose a threat to the safety of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, which were built in the Soviet Union era.

In an interview with ITAR-TASS Kondratyev said that Ukraine’s decision to switch to the US-produced upgraded nuclear fuel did not take into account technical characteristics and peculiarities of the Soviet-built NPPs.

“The current management of Ukraine’s Energoatom sets the main task to significantly reduce fuel purchases from Russia and switch to the US fuel,” he said. “However, such sharp alternation of nuclear fuel use could result in safety drop at the exploited nuclear power plants and this is definitely unacceptable.”

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 last week that supplies of Russian fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants did not cease and were delivered in line with the schedule.

He said this year 10 nuclear fuel deliveries were supplied to Ukraine from Russia adding that “we expect two more in November and hope that there would be no ‘force majeure’ and all deliveries would be completed.

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