Kiev and Astana has announced plans to start joint production of nuclear fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Ukraine has long sought to ensure the “energy independence” from the Russian nuclear components. However, the dream of Kiev look unrealistic to implement them will help not only Kazakhstan, but even the United States.
The head of the atomic company “Kazatomprom” Askar Zhumagaliyev said that Kazakhstan and Ukraine to cooperate in the organization of production of fuel assemblies in Kazakhstan for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. According to Mr. Zhumagaliyev, “the cooperation in this field is promising for the “Kazatomprom”, taking into account strategic objectives of the company diversification of production.”
“The main resistance to the introduction of us fuel comes primarily from the Ukrainian nuclear scientists”
In turn, Minister of energy and coal industry of Ukraine Igor Nasalik said that before Ukraine also faces the challenge of diversification of nuclear fuel supply, “therefore, Kazakhstan can become a reliable partner for the supply of uranium products in the form of enriched uranium. Ukraine will consider the possibility of participating in the construction of a plant for the production of fuel rods in Kazakhstan, said Nasalik in an interview with RBC-Ukraine. Secondly, Kiev is ready to create a joint venture for uranium mining in Kazakhstan.
“At the meeting of Kazakhstan confirmed readiness to develop production in Ukraine is not mining method, and the leaching surface, which is one of the most progressive in the world,” said Nasalik. Leaching technology is when the extraction of minerals and ores is conducted with the help of chemical solvents using boreholes drilled into the Deposit.
According to him, Kazakhstan is the latest technology in the world in uranium mining and have the lowest cost, which is about $ 30 per ton. Whereas in Ukraine it is $ 129 per ton. “And we buy 1.5 million tons. The benefit is obvious,” – said Nasalik. “So I guess in 1.5 years we will fully provide uranium ore for the needs of the Ukrainian nuclear industry”, – he concluded.
During independence of Ukraine there was a huge number of similar declarations. It was mentioned about designing your own TVs, and the manufacture of Fuel elements, and even creating its own nuclear weapons. The probability that new applications will remain on paper. At least, Ukraine and Kazakhstan alone is not able to produce nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants.
“The idea of creating a joint venture to manufacture nuclear fuel will remain either in a state of preliminary design, or are created pieces of technology that will be incorporated into a single project using other players such as Rosatom or the American company Westinghouse, which seeks to enter the market of the Soviet reactors,” – said the newspaper VIEW Alex Anpilogov, worked for many years in the Ukrainian nuclear industry, now the head of the historical research Foundation “Base”.
As the expert explains, the production of nuclear fuel consists of four stages, without which it is impossible to obtain fuel Assembly (TVL), which eventually gets into the reactor core.
The second stage is the isotopic enrichment of natural uranium is obtained. And this stage is not mastered nor in Ukraine, nor Kazakhstan. Such technology is only in the Russian Federation and EU countries. “Even the United States is actually a large part of its enriched uranium reactor at the companies that built by European firms, or receive uranium in finished form from Russia. That is, in the second phase, the joint venture of Kazakhstan and Ukraine there is a technological failure that it is hardly possible to close for a short time, especially given the resources that exist in Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” says Anpilogov.
The third stage is the creation of Fuel elements – fuel elements (it is a small cylinder that fit in the tube). According to experts, Fuel cells, in principle, can be produced at the Ulba metallurgical plant (Kazakhstan), but make them all the same from the Russian highly enriched uranium the degree of enrichment which is 4-5 times more natural. It is clear that at this stage there can be a speech only about the Ukrainian-Kazakh venture, they will need more trained partner.
Finally, the fourth stage is manufacturing for heat-segregation of assemblies. With the development of this stage there are problems and technical difficulties even the American company Westinghouse, to say nothing about Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
The Americans are trying to replace their Russian fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. However, experts are not just talking about economic inefficiency of this solution, but the key thing about the insecurity of such experiments. Now Americans put their TVs to download South-Ukrainian and Zaporizhzhya NPP.
Ukraine and Kazakhstan alone will not be able to produce fuel assemblies only in cooperation with Russia or the United States. “Russia is the owner of the intellectual property of TVs and manufacturer of a large number of unique materials and components, for example, zirconium alloys used for structural parts most TVs”, – says the interlocutor of the newspaper VIEW.
However, Ukraine in their desire to get rid of Russian nuclear fuel will probably be to work with the Americans.
Of course, the Americans own TVs can do, but their goal is to replace the Russian fuel assemblies for nuclear reactors of the Soviet type. And for many years to do this, they can’t. “The American and in General Western fuel assemblies are assemblies which have in cross section the form of a quadrangle, and the Russian Assembly – hexagonal and Packed more tightly. Assembled in Russia are closer to each other than the Assembly of U.S. or European origin. Because of this, the Russian Assembly operates in a rigid and heavy heat conditions, it can withstand heavy loads. This moment has always been a stumbling block for engineers Westinghouse, as many of their alloys and technical solutions, which were laid in the Assembly, the FA simply could not withstand the heavy mode, which is present in the VVER reactors developed in the Soviet Union. And all of these accidents at Ukrainian NPPs was just due to the fact that the American Assembly did not maintain the established deadlines, they are forced changed prior to the expiration of the warranty period,” says Anpilogov.
Kazakhs are actively helping US in their own problem is the problem of the shortage of natural uranium in the United States. Kazakhstan sells natural unenriched uranium to the Americans. At the same time, Kazakhstan produces uranium mainly by Russia (Rosatom) through joint ventures.
Therefore, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, of course, unable to participate in the American project of nuclear fuel production, but they will not help solve the problems Westinghouse that the company has with the manufacture of Fuel rods and especially on the fourth final stage – the creation of TVs. This is a serious engineering product. Therefore, the assistance of Ukrainians and Kazakhs, Americans will be limited.
According to the expert, the Americans have long had full access to the Ukrainian part of the documentation of the Soviet nuclear reactor, visited the Ulba and familiarized with the production technology of Fuel elements. However, even this was not enough to copy the technology. “Direct transfer of technology often does not work. This problem is all high-tech industries”, – says the expert.
According to him, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and technology, and the staff have become obsolete. “So the Americans, of course, will use Ukraine and Kazakhstan as the experimental site, but not as a technological component of your project,” says Anpilogov.
Despite the fact that the position of Rosatom in Ukraine in the last two years was undermined, however, Ukraine now buys 90% of its fuel in Russia, and in the long term will still take 80% of the fuel from the Russian Federation, the expert believes.
“Since the Westinghouse plant is not so powerful to ensure quick replacement of Russian fuel on the Ukrainian market. But most importantly – for at least another few years, American fuel will be in pilot operation,” says Anpilogov.
Moreover, according to him, the main resistance to the introduction of us fuel comes primarily from the Ukrainian nuclear specialists. “They directly confronted with the low quality of us fuel, and therefore strongly inhibit rapid introduction of alternative, but poor variants of replacement of Russian fuel. Because then they are on the skin will have to pull out and liquidate if, God forbid, an accident,” concludes the source.