September 11, 2014 / 4:19 PM / 5 years ago

Ukraine to use U.S. nuclear fuel to cut dependence on Russia - Energoatom

* Westinghouse in talks with Ukraine over nuclear fuel

* Russia’s Rosatom not aware of Ukraine’s alternatives supply

* Rosatom holding talks with Ukraine on two nuclear units

By Svetlana Burmistrova

MOSCOW, September 11, (Reuters) - Ukraine plans to use U.S fuel for some nuclear power generation from 2015 and seek non-Russian investors for development projects in a bid to cut its dependence on Russia, Ukraine’s Energoatom told Reuters on Thursday.

In January Ukraine, where nuclear energy accounts for 50 percent of power generation, said it would borrow $6 billion from Russia for new nuclear units, but a crisis in relations between the two countries arising from a separatist conflict in east Ukraine has thrown economic cooperation into doubt.

“The current state of Russian-Ukrainian relations does not allow us to count on state or export financing of this project from the Russian side in the near future,” a spokesman at nuclear energy monopoly Energoatom wrote in an email to Reuters.

All current Ukrainian nuclear power plants are Soviet-designed and rely on fuel from Russian state nuclear reactor monopoly Rosatom.

But in a sign Ukraine is looking to diversify its nuclear fuel supply, Energoatom said that next year it would start trialing fuel from Westinghouse, the world’s largest nuclear fuel producer and part of Japan’s Toshiba group.

“Starting in 2015 the third unit of the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) will start operating with nuclear fuel from an alternative supplier - the company Westinghouse,” the Energoatom email said.

Westinghouse Chief Executive Danny Roderick confirmed on Thursday his company was in talks with Ukraine.

“We’re is discussions right now. We’re just going to provide our product and if someone wants to buy it, we’d be happy to supply it,” Roderick told reporters at a nuclear conference in London.

Ukraine’s attempts to use non-Russian fuel in its reactors have hit stumbling blocks in the past as Soviet-built reactors use differently-shaped fuel to that used in Western ones.

Roderick said Ukraine would be using two fuels “and we want to be one of the suppliers”.

Ukraine and Westinghouse first signed a fuel supply deal in 2000, but in 2012 Westinghouse supplies to units at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant were found to be faulty and operations were closed down.

Rosatom Deputy Chief Executive Kirill Komarov, who is in charge of international business development, said he was not aware of Ukraine’s plans to develop alternative fuel supplies.

“We have contracts (with Ukraine) which we will fulfil, which go much beyond (2015),” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the London nuclear conference.

NUCLEAR UNITS

In 2010 Russia signed an agreement with Ukraine to build two new nuclear units - a partnership that Energoatom’s comments also appear to question.

Rosatom produces the VVER-1000 reactors that Ukraine had planned to construct. On Thursday, Rosatom said it continued to hold negotiations with Ukraine’s energy ministry on the two nuclear units.

“To date the Russian side has received no official notification of the termination or suspension of the project,” Rosatom told Reuters.

Last week Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said an agreement would be signed on the construction of the units by the end of the year.

Ukraine is in the grips of an electricity crisis as fighting between government forces and rebels has disrupted coal supplies to thermal power plants. It also faces a shortfall in winter gas after Russia cut off supplies June. (Additional reporting by Nina Chestney and Karolin Schapps in London; Writing by Alessandra Prentice, editing by Susan Thomas)

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