Nuclear plants ‘key pillars’ of national energy security, says Slovenske Elektrarne

The memorandum of understanding on nuclear cooperation was signed in Bratislava on 31 May 2023 between Framatome's Bernard Fontana (left) and Slovenske Elektrarne's Branislav Strycek.

Slovak utility Slovenske Elektrarne and French nuclear equipment manufacturer Framatome have signed an agreement to cooperate on nuclear energy including working towards the development of a “100% European fuel design” for the EU’s Russia-designed VVER reactor fleet.

The two companies said they signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday (31 May) during a visit to Bratislava by a French delegation led by president Emmanuel Macron.

In addition to nuclear fuel supply, the agreement focuses on developing bilateral cooperation in the operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants, safety and modernisation, efficiency improvement, instrumentation and control, digital and cyber security, a statement said.

Slovenske Elektrarne said it will work with Framatome and “other European operators” on the development of European nuclear fuel design for the Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor units in its commercial fleet.

“Nuclear power plants in Slovakia are key pillars of our national energy security,” said Branislav Strycek, chief executive of Slovenske Elektrarne, and added: “I consider it one of our main tasks to ensure diversification of nuclear fuel supply for the stable operation of the Bohunice and Mochovce nuclear power plants.”

Framatome said that “in the current international context” it had received requests from all VVER operators in Europe to help develop “a sovereign European fuel solution” to reduce dependency on external nuclear fuel supply.

The company said it is setting up European fuel manufacturing facilities and supply chain operations based on the existing fuel design used in European VVER reactors units.

“For several years now, Framatome has been developing an industrial solution to support VVER nuclear operators with respective short- and mid-term needs, for both VVER-1000 and VVER-440 reactors,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior vice president of Framatome’s fuel business unit.

Europe’s VVER Reactor Fleets

Slovakia has four VVER-440 units in commercial operation two at teach of the Bohunice and Mochovce sites. A third unit at Mochovce has recently been connected to the grid and is undergoing commissioning testing.

In the European Union, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Finland have another 10 VVER-440 units in commercial operation, while larger VVER-1000 nuclear plants are only operated by Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

Additionally, there are 13 commercial VVER-1000 units and two commercial VVER-440 units in neighbouring Ukraine.

Since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, operators of VVER plants in Europe have been looking to diversify nuclear fuel supplies away from Tvel, the fuel wing of state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom.

Slovakia is the latest country to sign a deal with a western supplier following similar deals signed by Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Finland with both US-based Westinghouse Electric and France’s Framatome. Ukraine signed an exclusive fuel deal with Westinghouse for its entire fleet in June last year.

Date: Friday, 02 June 2023
Original article: nucnet.org/news/utility-announces-plans-to-cooperate-with-france-on-100-european-fuel-design-for-vver-reactors-6-4-2023