Ukraine inherited a rich legacy from the USSR in the field of nuclear energy - four NPPs (Zaporizhia, Rivne, South Ukraine, and Khmelnitsky) with 15 nuclear power units and a total installed capacity of 13 835 MW (seventh place in the world). In the country's energy balance, the share of energy generated from them is 19,2%. If you look only at "electricity", it turns out that NPPs provide about half (47%) of all electricity generated in the country. There were studied uranium deposits and operating mines for its mining. Ukraine also got plants for the production of turbines and other components for NPPs (Turboatom, Energomashspetsstal, etc.). Unfortunately, got Chernobyl.
Nuclear fuel for Ukraine: issue price
The development strategy of the nuclear industry in Ukraine in terms of nuclear fuel was finalized in 2008 by the creation of the state-owned concern Nuclear Fuel. It includes state-owned enterprises VostGOK, Smoly, Dniprovsky Precision Tube Works and UkrNIPIpromtechnologii. The main objective of the concern is to create the production of nuclear fuel. In August, 2009 was adopted the program “Nuclear Fuel of Ukraine”. In March of this year, the concern “Nuclear Fuel” once again declared its goals. Among them, the achievement of the level of uranium mining to the full satisfaction of the demand for it at Ukrainian NPPs and the creation in Ukraine of the production of nuclear fuel and components for it. What will it give to Ukraine?
To supply Ukrainian NPPs with fuel, 267 t of enriched uranium is needed per year, which is equivalent to 2480 t of uranium concentrate (U3O8). The average price of the latter in the period 2009 – 2012. - 125 dollars / kg. Based on this, the cost of uranium enriched for the operation of Ukrainian NPPs during the year is 310 million. According to the World Nuclear Association, the price of fuel assemblies for June 2013 in terms of 1 kg of enriched uranium was 2360 dollars / kg. Based on this, the cost of fuel for Ukrainian NPPs is 630 million dollars. A long-term contract for the supply of at least one nuclear power plant is concluded with the American company Westinghouse (or rather, it is a daughter of the Japanese concern Toshiba, which owns 87% of its shares) in 2009. New contract with TVEL, a subsidiary of Rosatom, in 2010. In 2012, the Ukrainian state concern Energoatom, an NPP operator, purchased nuclear fuel for them in the amount of 600 million dollars, including from TVEL, on 555 million dollars, from Westinghouse - on 45 million dollars. In 2013, nuclear fuel was purchased on 601 ln dollars. (all the "TVEL"). So, Ukraine spends about 600 million dollars a year on the purchase of nuclear fuel. But at the same time, VostGOK produced 2008 tons of uranium in 800 (the year of the creation of the “Nuclear Fuel” concern). Its cost is about 100 million dollars. Thus, the achievement of the goal would allow Ukraine to increase its GDP by 500 million dollars and reduce its imports by the same amount. What have you managed to do over the years?
Mining: Foreigners refused investment
The search for uranium deposits in Ukraine began in 1944. In 1945 and 1946. The first two fields have been discovered - Pervomaiskoye and Zheltorechenskoye In total, the 1991 deposit was discovered up to 21. The mining and processing of uranium ore is carried out by VostGOK. Created in 1951. First ore mined in 1956. Uranium mining (U3O8): 2001 – 2008. - 800 t; 2009 g. - 830 t; 2010 g. - 849 t; 2011 g. - 892 t; 2012 g. - 960 t; 2013 - 922 tons. Ukraine’s own production in 2013 provided 37% of NPP requirements.
Before 2011, VostGOK had two mines. The Ingul mine develops the Vatutinskoye field, and the Smolinskaya mine, the Michurinskoye and Tsentralnoe fields. Annual mining of mines is 350 – 400 and 450 – 480 and uranium, respectively. The reserves of deposits developed since the end of the 1960-ies, almost exhausted. In addition, the mining of uranium ore is based on obsolete technologies that are not subject to modernization. Dramatically increase uranium mining can only be due to the development of the Novokonstantinovsky deposit (all four deposits are located in the Kirovograd region). In terms of uranium reserves - 93 626 t (uranium content in ore 0,139%), it is among the ten largest deposits in the world. Will be developed to a depth of 700 m vertical shafts. But the main ore horizons are at absolute elevations “minus” of 120 – 440 m. Investment in development will amount to 1,9 billion dollars. They can be implemented in stages. The estimated cost of uranium mining is $ 70 / kg. Active work on the construction of the first mine and the preparation for ore mining at VostGOK began in 2010. Mining began in 2011. This year it was planned to mine 99 tons of uranium, in 2012 – 2013. - by 184, in 2015, - 1336, in 2018, - 2865, tons. In total, it is planned to launch VostGOK for mining 3,5, thousand tons of uranium.
Russian Atomredmetzoloto (Rosatom’s subsidiary), Westinghouse, Canadian Gold Corporation, French Areva, Japanese Itochu and Australian Uran Ltd. showed interest in participating in the development of the Novokonstantinovskoye field. But either the results of the technical and economic assessments turned out to be negative, or the investment conditions were not attractive. One way or another, but Ukraine has relied on the development of the field on its own. The issues of uranium mining at the Safonovsky deposit (Mykolaiv region) are being worked out. Its reserves are 3000 t, the forecast volume of production is 300 tons per year. Cost price - up to 75 dollars / kg. Possible project participants are Kazatomprom and Areva.
The company "Resins" produces a wide range of ion-exchange resins, primarily for the extraction of uranium, gold and rare earth metals from ores. In August, 2013 noted the “depressed state” of the enterprise, and in December negotiations were held with the Czech company Uranium Industry, as with a potential investor in a project to modernize its production facilities.
The plan for uranium mining at 2013 in Vostogok has not been fulfilled. Instead of 1050, 922 tons were mined. The first reason is financial. In September, 2013 was reported that VostokGOK was negotiating with Russian banks - Sberbank of Russia and VTB, for a loan of 1,5 billion UAH. There were other attempts to “find” money for the development of the Novokonstantinovsky deposit. But to no avail. The second reason is that Ukraine stopped producing some reagents necessary for the production of uranium concentrate.
Beneficiation: only at foreign enterprises
Uranium oxide-oxide (U3O8) is subjected to conversion and converted into gas uranium hexafluoride (UF6), which is the initial substance for enrichment. Enrichment leads to an increase in the U-235 isotope in uranium to 3 – 5% as compared to natural 0,72%. This is low enriched uranium, which is the fuel for nuclear power plants. Ukraine sought to create a uranium enrichment plant on its territory as part of a package agreement with Russia. But S. Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom, spoke quite clearly (08.06.2010): “There is no enrichment in Ukraine. And it will not, because the enrichment technology is the technology of dual use, and there are international standards prohibiting its transfer to countries that did not possess it. ” At the same time, Ukraine has been offered access to enriching its uranium at Russian enterprises.
In October, 2006. TVEL and the national company Kazatomprom created the International Uranium Enrichment Center (70% and 30% of shares, respectively) based on the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Plant (not to be confused with the Uranium Enrichment Center). the base of the Ural Electrochemical Plant, which appears in the 1 part of the article “Big Uranium of Kazakhstan”). In October, 2010 bought “Nuclear Fuel” bought 10% shares from Rosatom (presumably for 100 thousand dollars), and in May 2012 did the same for Armenia. As you can understand, the center does not own any core assets, but is an operator. The annual volume of its deliveries to Ukraine (2012 – 2014) is 60 thousand separation units (about 9 tons of enriched uranium, 3,4% of the demand of Ukrainian NPPs).
Production of own fuel: the construction of the plant is stopped
At a certain stage, fuel pellets (uranium oxide, UO2) are obtained from enriched uranium hexafluoride, which are placed in tubes made of zirconium alloy. So fabricated fuel element (TVEL). Fuel elements are combined approximately in 200 units into complete fuel assemblies, ready for use in NPP reactors. In September, 2010 of TVEL won a tender for the construction of a plant for the production of nuclear fuel - fuel fuel assemblies (FA). In November, 2010 was created by the joint venture (50% + 1 share belongs to Nuclear Fuel).
The design of the plant (Russian State Specialized Design Institute together with UkrNIPIIpromtekhnologii) was completed in June of 2013. Its construction began in September of 2013. The design capacity exceeds the annual consumption of nuclear fuel by Ukrainian NPPs by 37,5%. The first phase was planned to be commissioned in 2015, the second - by 2020. The cost of its construction is 300 – 400 million. In 2014, it was planned to perform work on 92 million. The financing of the works should be done in accordance with the distribution of shares in the joint venture . But “Nuclear Fuel” was unable to contribute 2013 million to 42 in its statutory fund. The construction of the plant is stopped. In the first half of this year, great changes occurred in Ukraine. And in July, discussions began on whether other leading nuclear fuel producers (instead of TVEL) could be brought into the project - Westinghouse or Areva.
Deliveries of zirconium pipes and other components for the production of fuel assemblies were planned to begin by 2015. But in June, 2013 "started the procedure for the liquidation of the Dnepropetrovsk Precision Tube Works." In accordance with the program “Nuclear Fuel of Ukraine”, technical re-equipment of the enterprise “Zirconium” (production of zirconium; there is a corresponding raw material base in Ukraine) should have been performed. But funding was not conducted. The company has “bred” debts and today is in a state of bankruptcy.
TVS diversification: American assemblies "did not take root", but they are delivered again
Ukraine and the United States are working with 2000 to create an alternative to Russian nuclear fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. The US government has invested about $ 70 million in the project. Ukraine - “at least 130 million dollars” (not including the cost of purchasing fuel assemblies). In 2008, a contract was signed with Westinghouse. According to him, in 2011 – 2015. At least three units of Ukrainian NPPs have Russian fuel assemblies to be replaced by American ones. This is a complex engineering task, since Westinghouse fuel assemblies are not suitable for Rosatom nuclear reactors. Nevertheless, after the design improvements of their TVS, Westinghouse began to deliver them to Ukraine in 2009.
During the scheduled repair of the third power unit of the South-Ukrainian NPP in 2012, problems with the Westinghouse FA were revealed. As a result, we had to unload defective fuel assemblies from the reactors of the two blocks and load the “native” Russian ones into them. Financial losses of Energoatom amounted to 175 million dollars. Those who wish to look at the technical side of the question can be found in the article “The American assemblies“ did not take root ”at the Soviet-Russian reactors”. The participants of this serious incident - Ukrainian politicians and officials, as well as the leaders of Westinghouse, pretended that nothing serious had happened. From a technical point of view, it is. And from a technological and geopolitical point of view, what happened can be called one slang word - lazhanulis. Let's note one more thing. Lost by Energoatom 175 million dollars would be enough for a contribution to the authorized capital of the Nuclear Fuel Plant (42 million dollars) to continue its construction in 2014, and to finance the first stage of the development of the Novokonstantinovsky uranium deposit. It would have remained to “maintain trousers” to the Dnipropetrovsk Precision Tube Works and Zirconia.
Earlier in 2004, Westinghouse installed its fuel assembly at Temelin nuclear power plant (Czech Republic), built according to a Soviet project. And they also had an accident. They are depressurized during extraction. After that, the Czech Republic returned to the TVEL TVEL. But Ukraine went its own way. In April of this year, Westinghouse announced that it had improved the design of fuel assemblies for Ukraine. In April, Ukraine renewed the contract for the supply of fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants to the frozen at 2012. It will act until 2020.
SNF storage: “easier” to pay “Rosatom”
Storage and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) are the final stages of the “fuel” process chain. Zaporizhzhya NPP has its own SNF storage facility. And the SNF from the three other nuclear power plants of Ukraine is exported for storage and partial processing to Russia. For this, Energoatom annually pays Rosatom 150 – 200 million. Annual demand of Ukrainian NPPs in enriched uranium without Zaporozhye NPP is approximately 170 tons. Ukraine sends to Russia this amount of SNF for storage. The fee is 880 – 1180 dollars / kg, which corresponds to 37 – 50% of the price of fuel assemblies in terms of 1 kg of enriched uranium. In terms of 1 kg of unenriched uranium, the fee will be 95 – 126 dollars / kg, that is, approximately equal to its market price. Note that SNF is a valuable secondary raw material that can be effectively used in the next generation reactors.
Ukraine has a construction plan on its territory for a centralized SNF storage facility with a capacity of 16 529 spent fuel assemblies. The tender for the design and construction of the storage facility (2004) was won by the American company Holtec International. The contract was signed at 2005. The project cost is 3,7 billion UAH, the cost of its first stage is 1,2 billion UAH. But the project was almost frozen. The law allowing to begin construction of the storage facility was adopted only in 2012. In April of the current year, a decision was made to allocate hectares of area for it in the Chernobyl exclusion zone of 45. Construction is being carried out at the expense of loans from Energoatom. Pay attention to one moment. The cost of construction of the first stage of the storage facility is about 150 million dollars, which is no higher than the annual payment to Rosatom for taking Ukrainian spent nuclear fuel for storage. The storage could be put into operation in 2007. On the “freezing” of its construction, Ukraine lost approximately 1 billion dollars.
For how many years will Ukraine have enough of its uranium?
Despite the fact that the future of Ukraine and its territorial configuration remain uncertain, in our analysis we will consider the territory of Ukraine as a whole. The reasons for this are as follows. Firstly, it is not clear which boundaries will be divided. Secondly, an understanding of the possibilities of self-sufficiency of present-day Ukraine with uranium in any case will give an idea of the dependence of this territory (for any borders) on external sources of raw materials.
There are predictable uranium resources. This is the approximate value of its reserves, profitable for development, which can be prepared from the results of geological exploration (GEW). Uranium reserves are usually estimated in three cost categories (costs of extraction, processing and receiving a unit of product): up to 40, from 40 to 80 and from 80 to 130 dollars / kg. Uranium reserves and resources, as well as commercial transactions with it, are usually expressed in equivalent masses of its nitrous oxide (U3O8). As of 2011, uranium reserves in the world amounted to 5 327 200 t, and its production this year amounted to 54 610 t. (85% of NPP demand). According to the report of the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency (2011), uranium reserves in Ukraine are 119 600 t (1,8% of the world). Including 6400 tons with production costs less than 40 dollars / kg, 55 100 tons - from 40 to 80 dollars / kg and 58 100 - from 80 to 130 dollars / kg. The numbers above are geological reserves. The recoverable reserves of all deposits in the world make up 60% of the reliably estimated. For uranium deposits of Kazakhstan of the sandstone type - 70%. In Europe, uranium mining ceased when 50 – 70% of originally estimated reserves were mined. We can safely say that for Ukrainian deposits, recoverable reserves are approximately 50% of the geological. That is, the recoverable uranium reserves of Ukraine are equal to 59 800 t. Is it a lot or a little?
By 2019, the 10 of 15 power units of Ukrainian NPPs will end the design period of operation. But it will be extended by 20 years. In 2022, it is planned to begin construction of new blocks to replace the old ones being decommissioned in 2031 – 2037. This will allow up to about 2040 to ensure the generation of electricity at nuclear power plants at the level of recent years. To do this, you need 2480 tons of uranium annually. Recoverable reserves are enough for 24 of the year. For the world, this figure (at 60% recoverable reserves) is 50 years. That is, the supply of Ukrainian nuclear power plants with uranium reserves is two times lower than that of all nuclear power plants in the world. If Ukraine switches to self-sufficiency in uranium from 2017, its reserves will be enough to 2040. The territory of Ukraine is highly prospective for uranium. Based on this, according to the most optimistic forecast, it can be expected that the resources of uranium that can be transferred to reserves will suffice for another 10 – 20 years of operation of Ukrainian NPPs. In total, Ukrainian NPPs are provided with uranium reserves and resources at 34 – 44 of the year (up to 2050 – 2060). But Ukraine has plans to build two more power units at the Khmelnitsky NPP with their launch in 2018 and 2020. The design capacity of the units is according to 1000 MW. To ensure their operation, 390 tons of uranium will be required annually, which will reduce the period of supply of Ukrainian nuclear power plants with its reserves. With uranium mining at the level of the declared plan - 3,5 thousand tons per year, its reserves will be enough for 17 years. The conclusion is unequivocal. Uranium reserves and resources in the depths of Ukraine are not enough to supply its NPP reactors to the “planning horizon” adopted in the nuclear power industry.
The spot prices for uranium in the period from 2009 to the middle of 2012 were about 110 dollars / kg. Then began their fall. In the middle of 2013, they were at the level of 90 dollars / kg. In March this year - 77 dollars / kg. The prices for uranium on long-term contracts are, as a rule, higher than spot prices by 15 – 20%. In 2010 – 2012 Average uranium prices were about $ 125 / kg.
At the cost of uranium mining, VostGOK has a certificate from a competent Ukrainian specialist (01.06.2014): “we have more than $ 100 for sure, $ 120 even”. The estimated cost of uranium mining at the Novokonstantinovskoye deposit is $ 70 / kg, Safonovsky is $ 75 / kg. We can safely say that the latest estimates are seriously underestimated. Most likely, this is why it was not possible to attract foreign companies to develop fields. And for Rosatom's granddaughter - Uranium One (discussed in the 1 part of the article “Big Uranium of Kazakhstan”), the cost of uranium mining in 2013 was $ 35 / kg. The cost of production at its six ore fields in Kazakhstan varies from 24 to 55 dollars / kg. Willow Creek (USA) - 55 dollars / kg. That is, the cost of uranium mining from Uranium One (in 2013, it mined 4915 t) is three times lower than that of “VostGOK”.
The situation with uranium mining in Ukraine was difficult. "Old" deposits are practically developed. The extraction of "remnants" of ore on them has a high cost, and it will grow rapidly. In the foreseeable future, the Ingulsky and Smolinsky mines will be closed, and the agenda will raise the issue of financing the recultivation of mine workings, dumps and tailings. This is a lot of money. It should be noted that the Vostogok tailing dump (low radioactive liquid waste from a hydrometallurgical plant) is the largest in the world. All of the above means that the price of VostGOK (without the Novokonstantinovsky deposit) for foreign investors is not only minimal, but most likely negative. The declared cost of uranium mining at the new fields - Novokonstantinovsky and Safonovsky, is at the level of its spot prices, twice the real figure of Uranium One. In the foreseeable future, the situation is unlikely to change. This means that it is unlikely to receive a commercial loan for the development of the Novokonstantinovsky deposit.
The plan of "uranium independence" - rather, already история
On the whole, the plans adopted by Ukraine in 2008 for creating their own nuclear fuel production, taking into account the outlined joint projects with Russia, were quite real. But their implementation began against the background of accelerated degradation of the industry and lack of financial resources. But the lack of financial resources is the result of the degradation of the nuclear industry in Ukraine. In recent decades, the fixed assets inherited from the USSR have actually been “eaten away”. The industry did not form a profit from which it would be possible to finance the development of its individual components, including the creation of nuclear fuel production. But these are all formal conclusions made on the basis of the formal consideration of technical and economic issues. Ukraine’s real strategic goal was energy independence from Russia, and its own production of nuclear fuel is only one of the tools to achieve it. But it so happened that attempts to achieve a real goal led not only to the destruction of the foundations of the instrument, but also to the Ukrainian statehood itself.