Do not allow the new Chernobyl
The plans of companies from the United States to conclude an agreement with Ukraine on the supply of fuel cells for nuclear power plants caused concern at the Moscow Center of the World Association of Operators of Nuclear Power Plants. Representatives of the Public Chamber, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Defense, Rostekhnadzor, Rosatom, the Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences gathered at the State Duma for a meeting of the expert council of the Industry DG Committee to discuss all possible risks of the two countries.
For the sake of objectivity, members of foreign environmental organizations were invited to the meeting, but they did not come. “I learned with great chagrin that the representatives of the network of international ecological structures did not honor us with their presence. This is Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. And it seems to me that this is not accidental, because the participants of the expert council in their speeches can touch upon issues affecting the junction of political, economic interests and security issues, ”said Vladimir Gutenev, first deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Industry Committee.
Our country's concerns about the plans of the United States and Ukraine in the nuclear field are due to several reasons. First of all, by the fact that there is a negative experience of attempts by American specialists to infiltrate NPP facilities built by Russian companies.
So, in 1993, due to political circumstances, a tender for the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, which was initially created using Russian technology, was won by the American company Westinghouse Electric. “She also received the right to supply nuclear fuel. During the operation, serious technical problems arose, including massive depressurization of fuel assemblies (FA). During this time, 67 unpressurized fuel assemblies were detected. If I tell you that 163 TVS is located in the reactor core, you can imagine the scale of the problem, ”said Vasily Konstantinov, senior vice president of TVEL OJSC.
Do not allow the new Chernobyl
In 2005, the station operator, the Czech company CEZ, announced a tender for the supply of nuclear fuel, and TVEL won the tender. Moreover, to speed up the replacement of all American fuels, CEZ made an unprecedented decision to completely unload American fuel assemblies and replace the fuel with Russian fuel. In order to present the level of danger that arises when installing foreign fuel assemblies at NPPs of Russian design, Konstantinov spoke about the risks arising from poor-quality operation of reactors. The first level is minor mechanical damage during the planned loading and unloading of fuel. They manifest themselves most quickly, leading to problems during refueling operations of nuclear fuel. At the second stage, the depressurization of fuel assemblies with the release of activity into the coolant occurs. The result can manifest itself in a wide time range - from one month to three years.
“The third stage is the forms of changes or bending of fuel assemblies in the active zone. It is the most dangerous and appears on the horizon five to six years of operation. Dangerous because with the loss of the form of fuel assemblies, emergency protection rods cannot fall into the core or their fall is difficult. Actually, this can lead to a serious accident, ”the vice president of TVEL OJSC believes. According to him, the situation at the Temelin NPP was brought to the second level of the above qualification and only urgent measures by the Czech operator to replace the fuel helped stop the development of an emergency situation.
This is not the only case of a side effect from the use of American nuclear fuel at nuclear power plants of Russian design. There was a precedent in Ukraine, which has the largest fleet of our reactors: four stations, 15 power units. Nuclear power plays a strategic role in the country's economy, providing almost half of all power generation.
“Since 2004, all Ukrainian power units have been transferred by us to the operation of new fuel - TVS-A type cassettes. In 2010, TVEL and the Ukrainian national nuclear power generating company (NAEC) Energoatom have signed a long-term contract that is valid until the end of the life of the power units, that is, up to about 2042 of the year. Despite this, Westinghouse and NAEK signed an agreement for the supply of American fuel TVS-W. The agreement provided for the maintenance of three power units for five years. That is a total of 15 overloads, ”said Vasily Konstantinov.
He noted that American fuel did not have the necessary reference and did not have a corresponding license. In addition, there was no rationale for the safe operation of Russian and American fuel assemblies in mixed cores. “The decision to sign the contract was made on the basis of a separate decree of the President of Ukraine. In accordance with this contract, in 2010 – 2011, three reloading batches of American fuel assemblies were installed at two power units of the South Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant (SU NPP). In the summer of 2012, information appeared on the identified TVS-W defects. In particular, they found damage to 35 lattices of American fuel assemblies. They contained both minor jams and the absence of structural fragments. A number of technical questions about Westinghouse fuel arose during the planned repair of South Ukraine NPP in 2013, ”said Konstantinov.
He drew attention to the fact that the Ukrainians were silent on the repeated appeals of the Russian side. Even the chief designer of the WWR-1000 reactor facility OKB Gidropress did not receive official information about the operation of American fuel in mixed cores. And most importantly - there was no data on the impact on Russian fuel. “At the same time, we can assume that, unlike us, Westinghouse specialists had the opportunity to study information on the operation of Russian fuel. In connection with the identified defects in Westinghouse fuel, the national nuclear regulator of Ukraine decided to ban the loading of fresh American fuel and the expansion of its operation outside the third block of the South Ukrainian NPP, ”added the Vice President of TVEL.
Specialists from South Ukraine NPP came out of a difficult situation thanks to their Russian colleagues. TVEL urgently manufactured unscheduled batches of fuel assemblies to replace all American fuel. Today it is unloaded from the second block and remains only on the third. 66 cassettes are operated there, 26 of them is the fourth year. They will be unloaded at the end of this year.
“Today in Ukraine there are problems with the reloading operations of nuclear fuel. But the main difficulty is that in case of abnormal behavior of American fuel at Ukrainian NPPs, serious reputational risks arise for the Russian nuclear industry. We understand this perfectly well, because first of all they will say: our reactors are to blame for everything. Already today there are attempts to shift the responsibility on us. For example, in June, 2013, Westinghouse Vice President Michael Kest commented on the causes of American fuel defects at the South Ukrainian station and stated that his company's assemblies were damaged only because TVEL fuel significantly bends and collides with other assemblies inside the reactor. At the same time, Russian nuclear fuel without problems has been operated in Ukraine for many years, and for some reason, problems of nuclear power plants began to arise only after American cassettes were loaded to it, ”Konstantinov was surprised.
Note that similar problems with the use of nuclear fuel from Westinghouse more than once occurred in other countries. In particular, at the Slovenian station Krško and Finnish Loviisa, as a result of which these countries were forced to refuse the services of an American manufacturer. After the well-known political events, the head of the Ukrainian supervisory authority, which is responsible for the safe operation of the nuclear power industry, was dismissed. And immediately the national operator of the nuclear power plant extended the fuel contract from Westinghouse to 2020. “As you remember, it was before 2015. At the same time, the new head of the Ukrainian regulator agreed conceptually on the decision to continue the operation of the refined design of the American fuel cassettes. His predecessor banned the loading of fresh fuel into the reactors, and the current one is planning to cooperate with the Americans. Many facts and coincidences speak of the politically motivated decisions of Ukraine regarding this cooperation, ”said Vasily Konstantinov.
The economic calculations are ruthless. The losses of NAEC Energoatom from recent accidents at South Ukraine NPP due to American fuel amounted to about 175 million dollars. The current deal with Westinghouse is estimated at about 100 million. It is not known where the current Ukraine intends to get that kind of money, because American fuel is 30 percent more expensive than Russian.
Nuclear power plants hostage to politics
Contracts with Westinghouse are fraught with other problems. “Two years ago, TVEL began a program to move to zero level of nuclear fuel failure. It involves Russian, Bulgarian, Czech NPP operators, as well as specialists from Ukraine. The program applies to Russian fuel, which will be loaded into Western reactors. According to the results of its implementation, we plan to achieve the level of operation of reactors only with hermetic fuel assemblies. At the same time, the use of American fuel in Ukraine may affect the target results of the program, ”said Konstantinov.
Vladimir Gutenev formulated the second problem: “If suddenly, instead of Russian assemblies, America comes to Ukraine, where will they put spent nuclear fuel (SNF)?”. There is no clarity on this issue. The representative of the Ministry of Environment Tatyana Zeynalova said that currently the procedure for importing Russian SNF from Ukraine is in force. In accordance with the 1998 contracts of the year, each import is determined by a separate agreement. There are 418 government decrees, according to which the import of SNF into the Russian Federation should be accompanied by the deduction of a part of funds for the rehabilitation of radiation-contaminated areas. “In addition, there is a strict ban on the import into the Russian Federation of spent nuclear fuel from foreign countries. There is only the return of the fuel that we put there. Return is carried out on temporary storage or on processing. But with Ukraine, I want to note, there is an agreement for temporary storage and processing with subsequent return of fuel to its territory, ”explained Zeynalova.
According to Konstantinov, the Americans do not use a closed fuel cycle, that is, they never take their SNF back. Since the import of alien nuclear fuel into Russia is prohibited, Ukraine is trying to resolve the issue with the help of the Americans. For this, the American-British consortium of firms Holtec and BNFL has been trying to build a repository for SNF there for several years.
By the way, a large repository of nuclear waste (how Ukraine was seen and seen by its Western friends) began to be created under President Yushchenko when he let Westinghouse into his office. This is confirmed by the fact that the consortium Holtec - BNFL has not fulfilled its obligations to build a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear fuel for the needs of Ukrainian NPPs. It is known that about two thousand tons of this waste is still in the so-called wet storage created back in 1986 year. “When they complete its construction, this is a question for the Kiev authorities. In any case, the American fuel will remain in Ukraine. And where are the security guarantees? This is the threat of terrorism, dirty bombs, in general, not only the Ukrainian problem, ”explained Konstantinov.
A significant problem remains the responsibility for the safe operation of American fuel assemblies at Ukrainian NPPs with Russian design. By the way, the wind rose over South Ukraine NPP is not aimed at Russia, but towards Poland, in the Krakow region. The IAEA has a fundamental principle, according to which the responsibility for the operation of nuclear power plants should be borne by the country in whose territory the power facility is located. Vladimir Gutenev is trying to sensitize his Ukrainian colleagues with the help of German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It has great potential for influencing the current Kiev authorities, in principle, it can recommend it within the framework of the IAEA to conduct a detailed assessment of the risks associated with trying to use American fuel. If Russian experts are talking about this with great concern, then we should heed this, ”said the deputy.
As proof, he cited the following statistics: for seven thousand hours of work, the dynamics of an automatic stop due to the critical state of nuclear power plants in 2012 in the world was 0,46, and in Russia - 0,21. In 2013, this coefficient in the world was 0,49, we have 0,28. “The figures indicate a multiple excess of the performance of Russian nuclear power plants in reliability over the world, are eloquent proof that the opinion of our experts on the issue of safety of Ukrainian nuclear power plants must be heard,” Gutenev said.
Volodymyr Potsyapun, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Legislative Support of the Use of Atomic Energy, considers it unlikely that Ukrainian colleagues will be able to influence the authorities and incline them to make an informed decision. “We are one people, especially nuclear scientists. We are one upbringing and education. If it comes to the fact that someone will force them to use dangerous technologies or materials, then people should write memoranda and leave. But once I made a mistake. Journalists asked me if Ukraine would stop supplying water through the North-Crimean Canal. I said that if they are adequate, they will not give up the money, but they refused, ”Pocapun regretted.
Councilor of the Public Chamber Iosif Diskin suggested contacting academician Evgeny Velikhov with a request to hold urgent expert consultations with colleagues from Europe in the field of operating nuclear power plants. He intends to send an appeal to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe so that later there will be no empty talk about who was warned and who was not. “We have to beat the bells. I am convinced that not everyone in Europe is satisfied with American self-will over Ukraine. I would recommend to arrange for the relevant hearings at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and bring our utmost concern to what is happening there. For this, perhaps, we should ask for an emergency meeting of the relevant relevant committee of the Council of Europe, ”suggested Iosif Diskin.
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