Westinghouse and eight European consortium partners have received $2.2 million (ZAR26.8 million) in funding from the European Union “to establish the security of supply of nuclear fuel for Russian-designed reactors in the EU”, World Nuclear News reported on Monday.
The EU funding comes from the Euratom Research and Training Programme, which is part of Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme. The move means that operators of Russian-built reactors in the EU will not have to rely solely on Russia’s Rosatom for nuclear fuel supply.
Five EU member states, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia, operate Russian reactors (four VVER-1000 and 14 VVER-440 type units) and are currently solely dependent on Russia for nuclear fuel supply.
These reactors provide up to 52% of the electricity supply in the Member States concerned.
Improving energy security
The European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service (Cordis) explained that the scientific objectives of the proposed project include increased knowledge concerning the behaviour of the VVER-440 fuel during operation.
According to World Nuclear News, Cordis said: “State-of-the-art methods will be verified against an extensive database, including operating experience from several VVER-440 reactors as well as a number of other reactor designs and a wide range of operating conditions.
“The ability to accurately predict the fuel behaviour will be improved and thereby also the safety margins. New knowledge as well as identification of needs of technology development and improvements will be created in the fields of technologies for mechanical design, thermo-mechanical fuel rod design, and safety analysis for VVER fuel.”
Codis continued: “In addition to the technological advances, the project will identify the variation in licensing requirements between the authorities in the different countries. Through such identification, it will become clear that standardization would be beneficial and will foster a dialogue between the authorities/regulatory bodies.”
Yves Brachet, Westinghouse president, Europe, Middle East and Africa Region said the EU’s decision to provide funding demonstrates that it is “serious about taking measures to improve its energy security through a diversification of its nuclear fuel sources”.
Westinghouse will act as the coordinator for the project, along with consortium partners: Vuje (Slovakia); ÚJV Řež (Czech Republic); Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT, Finland); National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL, UK); NucleoCon (Slovakia); National Science Centre Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology (NSC KIPT, Ukraine); Institute for Transuranium Elements of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC-ITU); and Enusa Industrias Avanzadas (ENUSA, Spain).
Westinghouse, ENUSA and NNL have experience in developing, licensing and manufacturing Westinghouse VVER-440 fuel in combination with operating experience at the Loviisa nuclear power plant in Finland.
Vuje, ÚJV Řež, LUT and NSC KIPT hold knowledge with regard to safety analysis, licensing, and experience in working with the local authorities in their respective countries.
The JRC-ITU and NucleoCon are experts on the development and adaption of the TRANS-URANUS code, which is used for fault analysis during the licensing process of pressurized water reactors.
Results of this analysis will be presented to members of the VVER community, including utilities, universities and other organizations with close links to the nuclear energy industry. Articles and papers presenting the work and the results of the project will be targeted for nuclear industry, magazines and conferences, explained the Codis.
The project, known as European Supply of Safe Nuclear Fuel (ESSANUF) focuses on licensing alternative nuclear fuel supplies for Russian-designed pressurized water reactors operating in the EU.