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SINGAPORE, January 26. /TASS/. The government of Ukraine must make independent decisions concerning suppliers of fuel for nuclear power plants in the country, Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Monday.
In an interview with TASS Amano said the IAEA cannot dictate the countries what type of fuel suits their nuclear power plants and what type does not. He said the organization can only render assistance to certain countries and hold consultations on nuclear energy issues.
Ukraine’s switch to the use of upgraded nuclear fuel from the United States at its nuclear power plants (NPP), built in the Soviet times, raised a great deal of concern among not only Russian energy producers, but the authorities in Moscow as well.
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 last September that supplies of Russian fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants did not cease and were delivered in line with the schedule.
Westinghouse’s gain of the Ukrainian market may be recently seemed as another victory of the US company in its bid to conquer the European market of nuclear fuel consumption, which heavily rely on Russian supplies.
The Financial Times daily’s reports last autumn suggested that Westinghouse was pressing the European Union to introduce competition rules on the nuclear fuel market with the aim of reducing Europe’s dependency on the Russian fuel supplies.
The world’s biggest supplier of nuclear fuel argued that with Europe’s vulnerability to Russian natural gas supplies in view of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine Brussels needed to assess risks concerning the Russian nuclear fuel supplies to Eastern Europe.
According to Westinghouse, Russia makes up for 36% of the entire EU’s uranium enrichment needs and many reactors in Eastern Europe depend entirely on sets of fuel rods from Russia.
Finland is one of the European states depending heavily on supplies of Russian nuclear fuel, while Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic are entirely dependent on the Russian deliveries.
The daily reported that, according to Westinghouse “the EU’s weak spot lies in Russian VVER reactors across the former communist bloc and Finland, for which the Russian company TVEL is the only supplier.”
Westinghouse presses the EU for diversification in the Eastern Europe, since the US-based company is the only alternative for supplies of nuclear fuel for VVER-440 reactors.
The company said it needed an investment of $20 million to reprise the nuclear fuel production for the VVER-440 reactors, however, the work would take up to two years.