Westinghouse Electric Company signed a long-term agreement with Slovenské elektrárne to license and supply VVER-440 fuel assemblies to its nuclear power plants in Slovakia. Westinghouse said the agreement “supports Slovakia’s energy security and diversification of nuclear fuel.”
Slovakia has five operating nuclear reactors (Bohunice 3 and 4, and Mochovce 1, 2, and 3) and one additional unit under construction (Figure 1, Mochovce 4). All of the units are VVER-440 Model V-213 designs, a pressurized water reactor developed between 1970 and 1980 by Soviet designers. All of the Slovakian reactors are owned and operated by Slovenské elektrárne, and have been back-fitted with “the latest measures to manage ‘severe accidents,’ ” according to the company.
TVEL Fuel Company, the Fuel division of the Russian state corporation Rosatom, has long been the supplier of fuel for the reactors. However, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many nuclear power operators in European Union countries, who had previously relied on Russian-supplied fuel, have sought alternative suppliers. The World Nuclear Association reported that Slovenské elektrárne signed a memorandum of understanding with France’s Framatome in June this year to work together on the development of a 100% European nuclear fuel for VVER-440 reactors. It’s unclear if the deal with Westinghouse will alter that plan.
Westinghouse is a leading supplier of nuclear fuel around the world, providing a diversified portfolio across various nuclear reactor types. The company has manufacturing facilities in Sweden, the UK, and the U.S.
“We are very pleased to contribute to Slovakia’s fuel diversification and to strengthen our long-standing partnership with Slovenské elektrárne,” said Tarik Choho, Westinghouse’s president of Nuclear Fuel. “We offer the only fully-Western alternative fuel for this type of reactor and remain committed to supporting Slovakia’s operating fleet, leveraging our Swedish fabrication footprint.”
Said Branislav Strýček, general director of Slovenské elektrárne, “Securing another nuclear fuel supplier for our power plants is an important step in strengthening Slovakia’s energy security. Nuclear power plants represent an important pillar in our country’s energy mix, therefore I consider it to be crucial to secure nuclear fuel supply diversification for their stable operation.”
Approximately 59% of the electricity produced in Slovakia is generated by nuclear power and that percentage could increase in the future. Slovenské elektrárne recently announced it was taking the first step toward construction of a small modular reactor. In June, the company signed a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) with the Ministry of Economy, U.S. Steel Košice, the Slovak Electricity Transmission System, VUJE, Nuclear Regulatory Authority of the Slovak Republic, and the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava, with the aim of replacing at least some of its coal-fired generation with small modular reactor technology.
The company said the first step in fulfilling the partnership defined in the MOC is to apply for a grant to fund a feasibility study within the Phoenix Project, which is a program supported by the U.S. Government. Grants for co-financing feasibility studies are primarily intended for countries in the Central and Eastern Europe region. The feasibility study will allow Slovenské elektrárne to assess the suitability of small modular reactors in Slovak conditions and to propose the necessary steps for their possible future construction.
—Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@POWERmagazine).