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Ukrainian nuclear utility Energoatom says it has begun transporting used nuclear fuel from its operating reactors to the newly built and commissioned Holtec-engineered Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF) known as a Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) Facility in the US. The CSFSF is expected to save approximately $200m a year compared with the previous practice of transporting used fuel to Russia for reprocessing. “Today, Ukraine is entirely self-sufficient in the strategically crucial area of storage and management of the used nuclear fuel discharged by its reactors eliminating a critical constraint in the continued generation of electricity by the nation’s nine reactors,” Energoatom noted.

The joint cooperative efforts of Energoatom and Holtec International have deployed state-of-the-art storage and transport systems for Russian-origin (VVER) nuclear fuel which have proven defence-in-depth features against accidents and mishaps, Energoatom said. Equipment includes the HI-STORM 190 vertical ventilated storage system, the HI-STAR 190 Universal Transport Cask, the HI-TRAC 190 Transfer Cask, and an array of ancillary equipment to load, dehydrate, and weld the double wall Multiple Purpose Canisters at each operating plant site.

The dried and welded Double Wall Canisters have been safely transported in the HI-STAR 190 transport cask to the Central Storage Facility and placed in the HI-STORM 190 vertical ventilated systems for environmentally safe-storage. The high-capacity Double Wall Multi-Purpose Canisters and the heavily shielded transport cask HI-STAR 190 “have become Ukraine’s workhorse to transport the country’s used fuel from its nine reactors to the nation’s consolidated interim storage facility”. Although the Design Life of CSFSF is 100 years, their Service Life is expected to be many times longer.

While the major equipment was manufactured at Holtec’s US plants, the company’s European contractors in Estonia, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands also supplied important components and systems to the project.

Energoatom President Petro Kotin said: “Safe, secure, and reliable operations of the Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility are critically important for Ukraine’s nuclear energy industry to ensure continued supply of electricity to our citizens …. The successful operation of this vital facility is not only saving Ukraine annually $200m which Energoatom would have had to spend on paying for the transportation and storage of spent fuel to Russia, but it has achieved one of the most important objectives in advancing our nation’s energy independence.” He added that the facility was operating at 100% capacity and that the cost savings for the export and storage of spent fuel from domestic plants this year alone had already fully covered the costs for the facility’s construction.

Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko noted: “We have put an end to Russia’s monopoly on the used nuclear fuel market. We have a unique Centralised Spent Fuel Storage Facility, and we plan to build a manufacturing plant for the production of containers for storage of used nuclear fuel in our country. With such professional partners as Holtec International, the revival of Ukrainian nuclear industry is not just a goal but a reality for us.”

“Approximately two decades ago, Ukraine began its long quest to establish a supremely safe consolidated interim storage facility to take full control of its used nuclear fuel. That journey has finally come to fruition,” said Holtec President & CEO Dr Kris Singh. “This facility now has made Ukraine an international leader in consolidated storage of spent nuclear fuel. Holtec International also has the distinct honor and privilege to work with Energoatom for deployment of our SMR-300 Advanced Nuclear Reactors in Ukraine in this decade.”

Energoatom and Holtec have agreed in principle to establish a state of-the-art manufacturing facility for localising the production of equipment for Holtec small modular reactors (SMRs), used fuel storage and transport systems, and other nuclear energy related needs. To advance this objective, it is envisioned to establish a joint venture between Energoatom and Holtec for a Ukrainian manufacturing facility and technology centre that will serve as the vehicle to introduce the latest manufacturing technology into Ukraine. This facility would host an engineering/design centre, space for material storage, component manufacturing, assembly, and testing, as well as training facilities, including a SMR simulator. The facility is expected to create thousands of skilled jobs.

Kotin said this “would be of great importance for the post-war economic recovery of our country”. He added: “We must use advanced and unconditionally safe nuclear technologies as our nuclear energy sector generates more than 55% of the country’s electricity. This joint collaboration with Holtec provides a great opportunity for Ukraine to become a leader in the field of Global Nuclear Energy.”

Dr Singh noted: “We think the new nuclear manufacturing plant and its supply chain will help to further integrate Ukraine’s economy with the EU, United Kingdom, and the United States strengthening the country’s economic ties with the EU and justifying fast tracking Ukraine to become a valued member of the Union. In our experience, Ukraine’s nuclear sector already meets the metrics of business transparency and corporate ethics required under EU’s rules for accession.”

Image: Energoatom President Petro Kotin (L) and Holtec International vice president for Ukraine Riaz Awan (M) at the Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility, with HI-STORM casks in the background (courtesy of Energoatom)

Date: Wednesday, 03 January 2024
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