Published by World Nuclear News (WNN), 24th February 2022.
With the attention of the world focused on events in Ukraine, one of the questions people are asking is about the country’s nuclear power industry. Here is a brief overview.
How big is Ukraine’s nuclear power industry?
Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear energy, with 15 reactors generating about half of its electricity. All its current reactors are Russian-designed VVER types.
What is the history of nuclear power in Ukraine?
Nuclear development started in 1970, when Ukraine was part of what was then the Soviet Union, with the construction of the Chernobyl power plant. The first unit was commissioned in 1977 with unit 4 coming online in 1983. Following the accident in 1986, units 5 and 6 were cancelled in 1989.
The industry remained relatively stable during the years when the country became independent of the former Soviet Union. At the end of 1995 Zaporozhe 6 was connected to the grid making Zaporozhe the largest nuclear power station in Europe, with a net capacity of 5700 MWe. (The second largest station operating is Gravelines, near Dunkerque in France, with a net capacity of 5460 MWe.)
In August and October 2004 Khmelnitski 2 and Rovno 4 respectively were connected to the grid, bringing their long and interrupted construction to an end and adding 1900 MWe to replace that lost by closure of Chernobyl units 1 and 3 in 1996 and 2000 respectively.
What plans has Ukraine had for new nuclear capacity?
The original design lifetime of the Russian reactors was 30 years, but work has taken place to allow a series of lifetime extensions.
In September 2021 the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power firm Energoatom signed an agreement with the US-based firm Westinghouse to build four AP1000 reactors at established sites in the country. Since then Energoatom has outlined plans for further reactors – including exploring the possibility of deploying small modular reactors from US firm NuScale – as part of its goal of 24GWe of nuclear capacity by 2040.
What about Ukraine’s nuclear fuel?
Ukraine has access to two fuel suppliers: Russia’s TVEL and Westinghouse. Most fuel in Ukraine’s reactors is manufactured by TVEL, but the country has had an ongoing project in recent years to diversify its fuel sources
As of mid-2021, six of Ukraine’s 15 reactors were operating using fuel manufactured by Westinghouse, fabricated at its plant in Västerås in Sweden.
What Energoatom said ahead of the latest events
Earlier this month Energoatom’s CEO Petro Kotin said that: “According to the protocol, the plants will not work in case, for example, of bombing attack. In such a case, the plant is shut down and unloaded until the threat is eliminated.
“In the event of loss of the external power supply at the nuclear power plant, the autonomous power supply system starts working by means of powerful diesel generators. Ukrainian nuclear power plants are ready for such a mode of operation: the stock of diesel fuel located at nuclear power plants significantly exceeds the established standards.
“In addition, Ukrainian power units are ready even for an aircraft crash, because the containment and the reactor vessel designed to withstand corresponding risks.”
He added that two years’ worth of nuclear fuel had been stockpiled in case of interruption of supply.
The latest updates on the situation in Ukraine
The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine has said that all four of the country’s nuclear power plants have been operating normally, with nine out of the 15 units connected to the grid as of Monday 28 February.
Ukraine’s nuclear power company Energoatom issued a statement on Tuesday 1 March saying that all the power plants were continuing to operate normally, and said its CEO Petro Kotin had asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to intervene to help keep the area around nuclear power plants free from military action.
The Russian Ministry of Defence’s spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov was quoted by Russian media as saying, on the morning of 28 February, that Russian forces “have complete control and are protecting the territory” around the Zaporozhe plant, with its staff “working to maintain the facility and control the nuclear environment”.
In its update on 28 February the IAEA said that it had been told that Russian forces were “operational near the site but had not entered” Zaporozhe (also known as Zaporizhzhia) nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine at that time.
The IAEA statement also said that Ukraine had informed them the previous week that “Russian forces had taken control of the facilities of the State Specialised Enterprise Chernobyl NPP, located within the Exclusion Zone set up after the 1986 accident. The regulator said that the shift supervisor at the site had not been replaced since 24 February but that he continued to perform his duties.
“SNRIU also provided radiation readings from the site which the IAEA assessed as low and in line with near background levels.”
The condition of Chernobyl nuclear facilities and other facilities was unchanged, it said.
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the IAEA was monitoring developments in Ukraine “very closely and with grave concern” and with a special focus on the safety and security of its nuclear power plants and other nuclear-related facilities.
He stressed that the IAEA General Conference adopted a decision in 2009 that “any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Statute of the Agency”.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News
Source URL: https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/A-guide-Nuclear-power-in-Ukraine