Exclusive interview of Westinghouse Electric CEO Patrick Fragman to Interfax-Ukraine
- What are the main parameters for the units for which Westinghouse is going to supply fuel assumed in the contract?
- To date, Westinghouse fuel is operated at Ukrainian VVER-1000 reactors. By signing yesterday’s contract, we are expanding our partnership for the supply of fuel to VVER-440 reactors.
In addition, one more document will be signed declaring that we will involve Atomenergomash to localize the production of fuel components that will be used in Ukraine. By the way, we are also considering attracting Atomenergomash to the production of components for fuel assemblies, which can potentially be used outside Ukraine.
- How long can the fuel licensing process last?
- We will conduct a dialogue with the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine to complete all the necessary procedures for fuel licensing, which may take 1-1.5 years. However, both companies - Westinghouse and Energoatom - are familiar with this process. We know how it happens; we have gone this way many times. So, I think everything will go well, but it will take some time.
- Does the expansion of supplies to VVER-440 units imply the launch of the Westinghouse’s line at its production? Will it be a factory in Sweden? Does the signing of the contract with Energoatom mean that other countries operating VVER-440 units are also interested in Westinghouse fuel?
- Answering the first question, I will say in the affirmative. It is necessary to make some investments in order to set up a line in Sweden for the production of this fuel. We have already produced fuel for VVER-440 in the past, we have experience in producing it for Finland, where it has been in operation for several years.
Regarding the second question, I will also give an affirmative answer. Yes, today there are customers who are interested in this product. If you look at the markets, there are two VVER-440 units in Ukraine and 21 reactors of this design in Europe.
- And when, in this case, can we expect the signing of contracts similar to those with Energoatom on VVER-440 with NPP operators in other countries?
- The process is currently under study. There are many potential customers interested in supplies of Westinghouse VVER-440 fuel, which has better characteristics than the fuel supplied historically. In numbers, Westinghouse's fuel performance is 1.5% better compared to its competitors. For this type of power units, this is a very serious figure. In addition, our fuel offers improved safety performance.
- When is it planned to start supplying Westinghouse fuel for VVER-440 to the Rivne NPP?
- Fuel loading into the reactor core is envisaged for early 2024.
- What components for fuel assemblies will be produced at the facilities of the Ukrainian "Atomenergomash"? What steps need to be taken to start the full implementation of such cooperation in terms of technology transfer and licensing?
- The components to be produced are the fuel assembly top and bottom nozzles. These components require highly precise machining, knowledge, and skills. We carry out the qualification or certification of the Atomenergomash plant, which will provide this production and this procedure will take several months. In parallel, a feasibility study is being prepared, within the framework of which an assessment of the available capacities at Atomenergomash will be carried out in order to understand the extent to which they will be able to produce components for fuel outside Ukraine. I believe that by the end of the first quarter of 2021 we will already have a clear plan and an understanding of how to move forward.
- Talking about the contract for the supply of fuel for VVER-1000 units, which ends in 2025, are there negotiations for extending the supply period? Maybe there are also negotiations to expand supplies for units of this modification?
- Certain steps have already been taken in order to expand supplies to other units. This is not new as we announced it about a year ago. On other details of the contract and negotiations, I think it would not be very correct to disclose them. I would say that we have positive feedback from our customer, Energoatom, which confirms that our fuel differs for the better in terms of operational characteristics, safety indicators and economic efficiency. Therefore, I see no reasons that could prevent the contract with Energoatom from being extended beyond 2025.
By the way, I want to note that Ukraine is currently building a lot of renewable energy capacities. This is good, but it is worth remembering that it has its own characteristics in terms of operation. In this sense, Westinghouse fuel has improved capabilities to allow the plant to adjust its load in a flexible way, in order to adapt to the intermittent renewables.
- Does Energoatom currently owe Westinghouse for the supplied fuel?
- I cannot comment on this since the question concerns commercial relations between the two companies. These questions are usually not disclosed. I can only say that we have very long-standing friendly relations with Energoatom and we value the relationship. We have learned to help each other in difficult times and help solve emerging problems.
- Has the leadership of Ukraine announced to the consortium of companies, which includes Westinghouse, an official position on the possibility of implementing the Ukraine-EU Energy Bridge project or its possible closure? A few high-ranking officials have said over the past year that the project will not be implemented.
- I think that if the Ukrainian government has made an official statement on the project, you would have known about it earlier than we have.
Commenting on current situation, we have made a lot of effort and spent much time to prepare this project and submit the necessary documents. But it is important to understand that the project has a significant number of subjects, and all of them must reach a consensus. Until it is reached, the project cannot be implemented. So now we are at the stage of waiting for agreement on the project by all parties. We will not be able to move on without this.
- Summing up, how do you assess the company's activities and prospects in terms of nuclear fuel supplies in Ukraine and the world in general?
- Although today we are signing a contract for the supply of fuel for only two VVER-440 units in Ukraine, but if we take the total of all units to which Westinghouse supplies fuel now and will supply it in the future, then the scales begin to tilt in favor of Westinghouse.