US-made fuel in Ukrainian reactors

The use of US-made fuel in Ukrainian reactors may lead to 15 Chernobyl disasters at a time.
Kiev is reducing cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear power production and is going to sign a contract with the Westinghouse Electric Corporation of the United States for nuclear fuel supplies. Flaws have been repeatedly detected in Westinghouse-made fuel assemblies. Experts believe that the use of such assemblies will make Ukrainian nuclear reactors less reliable and may pose a threat to Ukraine’s nuclear safety.

Ukraine’s new authorities have clearly decided to ratchet down Kiev’s dependence on Russian nuclear fuel supplies and sign a contract to that end with the Westinghouse Corporation. But the move may result in a manmade disaster in Ukraine, since the nuclear power plants in Ukraine have been built from Soviet design an can safely operate only on the fuel made in the Russian city Elektrostal, says Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Natural Resources, Maxim Shingarkin, and elaborates.

“Every single reactor is normally built on the assumption that it will consume the nuclear fuel with specific characteristics, such as the amount of highly enriched uranium and certain thermal response. Any deviation may result in a nuclear accident. We can get as many as 15 Chernobyl disasters at a time, with a danger of such a scale to Ukraine, Russia and Europe that the entire world’s civilization will fail to cope with them”.

Ukraine already signed a contract with Westinghouse, five years ago to be exact. US-made fuel assemblies caused problems in two generating units in less than a year. The assemblies began to bend themselves due to design flaws. But Ukraine managed to avoid a nuclear disaster then. Ukraine banned the Westinghouse-made nuclear rods from loading into its reactors. But the people currently at the helm in Kiev seem to be prepared to ignore the negative experience of using US-made fuel assemblies and to have them loaded into as many as three reactors at a time. This runs counter to the international nuclear safety and security standards, says the Chairman of the International Union of Atomic Energy and Industry Veterans, Evgeniy Akimov, and elaborates.

“This kind of experiment was made several years ago when Ukraine and the Czech Republic attempted to use US-made nuclear fuel rods. The results proved negative in both cases. The rods were removed, and the plants resumed the use of Russian-made fuel”.

The use of Westinghouse-made fuel in Ukraine may put out Ukrainian reactors out of operation, prompt a discharge of radioactive substances into the atmosphere, cause the whole of Ukraine’s electric power production system to collapse and trigger and environmental catastrophe in Ukraine and beyond.

Ksenia Melnikova
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