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Use of US nuclear fuel at Czech Republic’s Temelin NPP causes problems — experts

Europe advises its counterparts in other countries not to replace the nuclear fuel specifically designed for this type of reactors with unauthorized substitutes, the company ALTA said

PRAGUE, December 31. /TASS/. Attempts to use nuclear fuel from the US manufacturer Westinghouse inside reactors of the Czech Republic’s Soviet-designed Temelin nuclear power plant in the past repeatedly caused many unexpected situations and problems, the provider of Russian fuel assemblies for Czech NPPs, ALTA, told TASS.

“In particular, such incidents occurred at Hungary’s Paks NPP and the Czech Republic’s Temelin,” the company said. “Europe still remembers that and advises its counterparts in other countries not to repeat their mistakes by replacing the nuclear fuel specifically designed for this type of reactors with unauthorized substitutes.”

In May 2007, the Czech Republic made a decision to remove Westinghouse fuel assemblies from the NPP Temelin’s reactors ahead of schedule because in the process of operation they had become strongly deformed, thus causing disruptions to the power plant’s operation. The worst incident occurred at Temelin in January 2007, when problems with fuel caused an emergency shutdown of the entire first unit. The reactor was restarted only three months later. In 2010, the Czech Republic’s largest nuclear power plant Temelin had to resume the use of Russia-manufactured fuel.

“The Russian fuel producer TVEL won the contest for the supply of fuel for Temelin, outbidding the United States’ Westinghouse,” Temelin NPP spokesman Vaclav Brom said. “The contract was concluded for a period of ten years from 2010 to 2020.”

Last Tuesday, the Ukrainian company Energoatom and Westinghouse signed an agreement to increase supplies of nuclear fuel from the United States for Ukrainian power plants till 2020. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who broke the news, described the event as yet another step to diversify energy supplies to Ukraine.

Up to now Russia’s TVEL has been the largest nuclear fuel provider for Ukraine. Last November, Energoatom and TVEL inked a fuel supply contract by which Ukrainian nuclear power plants will be getting Russian fuel in 2015-2016.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said that if used at Ukrainian nuclear power plants, US fuel from Westinghouse would be fraught with major risks for Ukraine and for the whole of Europe.

Energoatom is the operator of all of Ukraine’s four operational NPPs. It runs fifteen reactors with an overall capacity of 13,835 gigawatts.