Sofia and other EU countries want to reduce dependency on Russian state company Tvel

Kozloduy-5 is a 1,003-MW Russian VVER pressurised water reactor. Courtesy KNPP.

The licensing process has begun for the use of Westinghouse-manufactured VVER-1000 fuel in Unit 5 of the Kozloduy nuclear power station as Bulgaria steps up efforts to diversify from Russia-suppled reactor fuel.

The Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency said it had received an application for the use of Westinghouse fuel. It said the application comprised more than 80 documents totalling more than 8,400 pages.

In December 2022 the Bulgarian ministry of energy confirmed the signing of a 10-year contract with US-based Westinghouse for the delivery of nuclear fuel for Kozloduy-5, calling it a “new era” for the country’s nuclear energy sector.

A month earlier, Bulgaria’s parliament had passed a motion to speed up licensing procedures and potential supply of non-Russian nuclear fuel for Kozloduy’s two units, Kozloduy-5 and -6.

Bulgaria receives nuclear fuel from Tvel under a 2019 contract which is set to expire in 2025.

Europe Looking To Shut Out Russia

Since 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 Moscow’s state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom.

There are over 30 reactors of the VVER-440 and VVER-1000 design operating in the EU and in Ukraine.

The Bulgarian energy ministry said the move to fuel Kozloduy-5 with Westinghouse fuel was “a major step forward” towards the diversification and security of nuclear fuel supply.

The ministry said the price of the Westinghouse-made fuel for Kozloduy-5, a 1,003-MW Russian VVER pressurised water reactor unit, was expected to remain the same as that offered by Bulgaria’s existing supplier, the Russian state company Tvel.

It said the US company had agreed to install a control system specific to its fuel during a planned outage at Kozloduy-5. This would pave the way for the parallel use of existing and new fuel assemblies before a full transition in late 2024.

Westinghouse already has VVER-1000 fuel supply deals with Finland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine, where operators have decided to work towards cutting their dependency on Russia.

In July, a consortium led by Westinghouse was chosen by the European Union to develop and deliver a “secure, fully European” nuclear fuel supply to Russian-designed VVER plants.

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 VVER fleet.

Date: Friday, 28 July 2023
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