Expert opinion on ensuring nuclear security of Ukraine

Due to the aggression of the russian federation, Ukraine had to face unprecedented challenges and quickly respond to the threats posed by the russian invasion. The Ukrainian nuclear industry, which, unfortunately, was dependent on russia for a long time, was no exception. However, Energoatom launched the process of destroying the monopoly of the russian federation.

Over a relatively short time, Ukraine completely refused to cooperate with the aggressor country. Moreover, this experience is unique, since many countries have already given up oil and gas from the russian federation, but russian nuclear technologies continued to spread worldwide and became another lever of influence for russia in the global context. Whereas Energoatom has demonstrated quite real cases of overcoming dependence on rf in nuclear field.

Previously, Ukraine had to pay russia about $200 million annually only for the transportation, processing and storage of spent nuclear fuel from Ukrainian NPPs. But the construction of Centralized Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF) took this issue off the table forever.

It is worth noting that Ukraine started to move towards the appropriate independence even before the beginning of the full-fledged invasion. Even the military situation didn’t stop the CSFSF construction, and the Storage Facility has already been fully commissioned. Just a few days ago, Energoatom reported that spent nuclear fuel from three Ukrainian NPPs has already begun to be transported to a new storage facility.

Recently, President of Energoatom, Petro Kotin, noted that Ukraine saved $150 million just this year. Savings in the transportation and storage of spent fuel fully covered the costs of building the Storage Facility. Therefore, the saved money can be directed to the development of domestic nuclear generation. Today, the share of nuclear energy in the national energy balance is over 55%. But this indicator should definitely be increased given nuclear generation is one of the pillars of our country's energy independence and security.

Ukraine has ambitious plans to increase its nuclear capacity from today's 13.8 GW to more than 20 GW over the coming decades.

Several projects are already being implemented to achieve this goal. In particular, it is about the construction of Khmelnytska NPP power units 3 and 4. Construction work will be able to start immediately after the adoption of the relevant Law by the Parliament. But, unfortunately, the prepared draft law has not yet been put to the vote of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Two new power units using Westinghouse's AP1000 technology are also planned to be completed. Energoatom and the U.S. company have already signed a corresponding agreement on the purchase of a nuclear reactor for KhNPP power unit 5. This will be the first non-Soviet (by "origin") power unit in the history of Ukraine. Equipped with a safe and reliable Gen III+ nuclear reactor, it will have a capacity of over 1,100 MW.

Another area for development of global nuclear generation is the introduction of small modular reactors (SMRs). Although the work is still underway, Energoatom has already done a good deal of groundwork with leading global companies – Westinghouse, Holtec, and ARC Clean Energy – for the construction of SMRs in Ukraine. After all, in a long run, such installations can be used extensively on the territory of our country during the post-war reconstruction. But the most significant achievement of Ukraine in stopping russian influence on the nuclear industry is the refusal of the nuclear fuel of the aggressor country. Previously, russia had a monopoly on this market. However, this monopoly was managed to be destroyed.

So far, Energoatom has switched the reactors of Ukrainian NPPs to Westinghouse fuel. A whole complex of engineering measures was carried out for all domestic power units with VVER-1000 and VVER-440 reactors to operate on American fuel. Therefore, now the unique Ukrainian experience can be applied to other countries seeking to get rid of the "nuclear" influence of the russians.

Furthermore, Energoatom's cooperation with Westinghouse will cause significant losses to the russian federation, because, as Petro Kotin claimed, having lost the monopoly on the nuclear fuel manufacture and the construction of nuclear power plants, russia may not receive over $100 billion. Initial confident steps have already been taken on the path of nuclear fuel manufacture using American technology. Thus, one of Energoatom's separated subdivisions is currently engaged in the development of test samples of elements and components of fuel assemblies (FAs), which are necessary for working with nuclear fuel in the reactor cores of Ukrainian NPPs.

Additionally, Ukraine continues its licensing efforts to increase industrial-scale production of fuel assembly bottom nozzles manufactured using Westinghouse technology. A similar process is provided for fuel assembly top nozzles. As planned by Energoatom, since 2026, owing to in-house manufacture, Ukraine will meet its needs in nuclear fuel by 50%, while Westinghouse will cover the other half.

Also, Energoatom has developed its own design of an absorber assembly for VVER-440 fuel, and now, for the first time, Ukraine has its own production and after obtaining a license, the Company will be able to manufacture and supply these absorber assemblies to EU countries that use such reactors as well. All of the above are steps, in particular, to create own hub of nuclear technologies. It will include mechanical engineering and commercial production of essential equipment and components for nuclear reactors.

Thus, russia's war of aggression against Ukraine exacerbated the issue of the independence of the domestic nuclear industry from russian influence. "We have to exclude russia from the list of players on the civilized energy markets – this is the biggest lesson that needs to be learned," the head of the Ministry of Energy German Galushchenko constantly notes.

And our state became the first to break the russian monopoly on the nuclear technology market. The example of Ukraine proves that EU countries can also overcome energy dependence on russia, which will significantly strengthen their energy security. After all, cooperation with nuclear terrorists must be stopped forever!