those westinghouse rods won’t even fit properly (square vs hexagonal)

Unit 3 South-Ukrainian NPP December 6, scheduled to be shut down for an average of turnarounds (CPD) for a duration of 119 days. This was reported in the press center of the NNEGC “Energoatom”.
During the outage, the third unit will be downloading the upgraded fuel assemblies manufactured by Westinghouse (FA-WR). Download Westinghouse fuel in unit 3 NPP approval by the State nuclear regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine.

Here is an authoritative analysis from just over 6 months ago:

Three nuclear bombs Ukraine, May 27 2014

Replacement of Russian nuclear fuel with Pindostani fuel, explosive under the leadership of Ukraine. “Europe is threatened by three new Chernobyl” – expert evaluation Professor Northern (Arctic) Federal University. M. C. University Vladimir Kuznetsov and ecologist, state Duma Deputy Maxim Shingarkin. About the authors: Kuznetsov Vladimir Mikhailovich, doctor of technical Sciences, Professor, Northern (Arctic) Federal University. M. C. University, academician of the Russian Academy of natural Sciences and APE. Maxim Shingarkin – Russian social activist, human rights activist, ecologist, expert in radiation, environmental and industrial safety. Deputy of the State Duma of the 6th convocation.

The victory of the “national revolution” in Kiev and the resulting destabilization of the country make it necessary to evaluate new global threat. Special danger on the territory of Ukraine of objects of use of atomic energy. Among them the following: storage of spent nuclear fuel; the presence of the radiation of the Chernobyl zone; Pridneprovsky chemical plant, located in Dneprodzerzhinsk. Pridneprovsky chemical plant (PCP) is one of the first in the USSR the plant for the extraction of uranium. The area of the industrial site is 250,000 sq m. Today there are 22 companies, seven of which are privately owned. In the city, in the industrial area and beyond has 9 storage of radioactive waste. According to official data, the mass of the contents of these stores is about 42 million tons of total activity of 75 thousand Ki. Dneprodzerzhinsk chemical plant seems to be the most likely target for large-scale nuclear terrorism. The situation is complicated by the fact that PCP is no full protection of its territory is not fenced. In recent years, factory security prevented several attempts at theft of radioactive materials. However, problems with ensuring the safe storage of radioactive waste is only a small part of the nuclear threat for Ukraine, in particular, and Europe in general.

Four Ukrainian NPPs are 15 nuclear reactors:

  • Khmelnytsky NPP – 2 units with VVER-1000 reactors, commissioned in 1987 and 2004. On this same station, the construction of two more units with VVER-1000 (time of start – 2015-2016);
  • Rivne NPP – 4 units with WWER-440 (date of start – 1980, 1981, 1986 and 2004);
  • South-Ukrainian NPP – 3 unit with WWER-1000 (date of start – 1982, 1985 and 1989);
  • Zaporizhzhya NPP – 6 units with VVER-1000 reactors (date of start- 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1995).

Currently, the Ukrainian government has started extremely dangerous in replacement for existing nuclear power plants of Russian nuclear fuel with Pindosi fuel. In Apr 2014, Ukraine extends frozen two years ago a contract with the Pindosi company Westinghouse which provides for the delivery of up to 2020, the corresponding amount of fuel TVs-W for three nuclear power plants of Soviet design. Minister of energy and coal industry of temporary Ukrainian government Yuriy Prodan said that at present the characterization of fuel have been completed and, despite some problems with the licensing authority, “all will be well.” However, in order to resume frozen contract with Westinghouse, PM Yatsenyuk, known for his deep Pindosi ties, had to fire the Chairman of the state nuclear regulatory Committee of Ukraine Olena Mykolaychuk and Chief inspector of nuclear and radiation safety SCNS Michael Guseva. Olena Mykolaychuk all these years responsibly and competently acted against the use of Pindosi fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants, and Mikhail Gashev presented a negative conclusion on fuel Westinghouse.

In fact, in 2010, South-Ukrainian NPP already passed on the use of the Pindosi fuel Westinghouse in the second and third units. In the process of use of nuclear fuel at nuclear power plants has faced problems in operation, frequent repairs and reactor shutdown. In this regard, from the workers of the plant was prepared petition to address regulatory company “Energoatom” and the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, as well as in a number of ministries. In response the chief state inspector for nuclear and radiation safety of Ukraine M. Gashev assured that the Pindosi Westinghouse fuel will be replaced by Russian, which was done at the end of 2012 as the South-Ukrainian NPP, and at Zaporizhzhya NPP. Ukraine is becoming a tradition when changing the power to change not only the political orientation, and technical policy. Similar happened after the victory of the “orange revolution” in early 2005, when Pres Yushchenko instructed to replace the “bad” Russian nuclear fuel with “good” Pindosi fuel, which nearly ended in a nuclear accident. A new contract with Westinghouse confirms the politicization of a purely technical question, given the negative experience of the use of Pindosi fuel in Soviet/Russian VVER-type reactors in Finland, Czech Republic and Ukraine.

The supply of nuclear fuel in the form of fuel assemblies at nuclear power plants is a very important business for nuclear corporations. In practice, the company that builds the station then makes deliveries for nuclear fuel. Because the nuclear power unit is operated at least 40 years, the company has orders for a long time. Currently, 75 % of the world nuclear fuel market, whose annual turnover is more than $35b, is divided between three world-class companies: Pindosi Westinghouse (31%), French Areva (27%) and the Russian FC “TVEL” (17%), between which is competition. Therefore, companies are trying to win each other’s market share. The original fuel Westinghouse in the reactors of Soviet/Russian design is technically impossible to place – as it is impossible to place the Russian fuel in European and Pindosi reactors. In a Russian design of the fuel rods arranged in the form of a package having the shape of a regular hexagon, like cells in a beehive. The fuel rods Westinghouse are in square packing, and a fuel assembly, respectively, has a square shape. The shape of the active zone are all structural elements of the reactor enclosure (internal surface of which should follow the lines of the fuel assemblies), the base plate and so on up to the top of the reactor. The location of the holes for the supply of water in the bottom of the reactor shaft and placement of the rod drives, and holes in the top cover of the reactor must also be consistent with the layout of the active zone. Thus, the fuel load fuel Westinghouse in the VVER must constructively to issue it in the form of hexagonal assemblies.

The first attempt by Westinghouse to master the fabrication of fuel assemblies for VVER-440 began in 1998, when the NPP “Loviisa” was delivered five fuel assemblies for testing. The reactor was loaded with five Pindosi assemblies and six Russian ones. The irradiated fuel assemblies were run until 2002, after which they were discharged from the active zone and subjected to a thorough analysis on a special stand. Visual inspection of both types of spent fuel assemblies showed the stability of their sizes with slight curvature at burnups up to 50 MW×day/kg. However, corrosion resistance of the cassettes Westinghouse was significantly lower than the Russian cassettes of a fuel rod. After four campaigns corrosion layer of the Pindosi assemblies was 21 μm, and the Russian-1-4 microns. Also, the Pindosi fuel rods was recorded gaseous fission products, exceeding the same indicator for Russian products. The results of this test the owner of the station “Fortum” came to the conclusion that for reactors VVER-440 technologically more relevant are the Russian fuel cartridge, and refused the fuel Westinghouse.

The story of the refusal of the Russian fuel in some countries of Eastern Europe, where operated Soviet/Russian VVER-type reactors, originates in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its accession to the EU. Change of suppliers they explained the diversification of supply failure from energy dependence on Russia. There was also political pressure from the EU and Pindostan to refuse cooperation with Russia. The first country of the former socialist camp was the Czech Republic, which, politically diversifying itself from Russia, gave at the disposal of the Corporation Westinghouse two active zones. In the development of fuel assemblies for VVER-1000 reactors, Pindosi experts was based on their own experience in the fabrication of fuel for PWR reactors. Despite the fact that the Russian fuel assemblies can serve for five years, and Pindosi assumblies for only four, cassettes supplied by Westinghouse were loaded in the reactors of both NPP Temelín. Adaptation of Westinghouse fuel for VVER-1000 reactors was very difficult, and commissioning of the units was postponed several times because of his unwillingness. The hexagonal package is completely different than that of a square, the mechanical characteristics – work in tension, torsion, bending, thermal expansion. Hydrodynamics of active zone VVER more intense in comparison with PWR (speed of the coolant at ~1 m/s more). On the strength characteristics strongly influenced by structural material of the cladding (zirconium alloy) and the technology of its production. Therefore, in order for a foreign manufacturer to produce hexagonal assembly with the desired characteristics, it is necessary to have Russian technology and materials, as well as Russian technical specifications and standards, or to purchase a license to manufacture. None of this was possessed by Westinghouse. All this has led to the emergence of many problems during the operation of the Westinghouse fuel assemblies. Pindosi assemblies often became deformed and failures were recorded in 51 of 61 fuel assemblies.

Back in 1996, when the operator of NPP Temelín signed a contract with Westinghouse, the main contractor for the construction of the station on the Russian side refused to participate in its operation and has not given security guarantees, as the behaviour of the Russian reactor with Pindosi fuel becomes unpredictable. As a result, after 10 years of operation of the fuel assemblies Westinghouse at NPP Temelín, unfavorable predictions came true. At the station had repeatedly perform early overload the reactors due to the occurrence of leaks of fuel rods and deformation of fuel assemblies. During the four trials conducted in 2006, it was discovered that due to the deformation of fuel assemblies from 32 to 51 of the rod drives, was not introduced into the active zone for a period of not more than 3.5 seconds, which does not meet accepted in the Czech Republic, the nuclear safety requirements. Westinghouse failed to ensure that no deformation of the fuel assemblies for reactors WEHR-1000 professionals. In addition to the threat of a nuclear accident, damage to fuel assemblies led to significant costs of energy production. The reactors had to be stopped out of the queue to replace damaged cassettes, and the day idle unit turns into a loss of about 10 million crowns for the operating organization. As a result, in 2006 it was decided to refuse the Pindosi fuel assemblies and by 2010 fully return to Russian fuel assmeblies. In addition to technical there were political reasons for return to the Russian fuel: the green party, which had considerable influence in Parliament, actively protested against any innovations in nuclear power plants.

The early attempts to solve the problem of dependency on Russian supplies of fuel for nuclear power plants in Ukraine began in 1998, when Pindostan signed an agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The agreement provided for a payment of $30m, the modernization of the Ukrainian fuel sector and the active participation of private Pindosi capital for the supply of fuel for Ukrainian NPPs. In 2000, NNEGC “Energoatom” and Westinghouse began the implementation of a project on the use of Pindosi fuel assemblies fuel Assembly-W for the Ukrainian VVER-1000 reactors. Westinghouse developed and delivered for testing six upgraded fuel assemblies, revised based on the Czech defects, combine with the fuel of Russian origin in the third block of the South-Ukrainian NPP. When developing assemblies FA-W for Ukraine, Westinghouse took the most simple technological solution: to copy the Russian technology for VVER-1000. Delivered to Ukraine cassettes are actually clones of the Russian, like them on 90% and nearly as different from the fuel produced for the Temelín NPP. According to available data, there are no contractual relations between the Russian manufacturers of fuel assemblies and Westinghouse to transfer the required minimum of technical documentation. It is known that the Ukrainian side has passed Westinghouse two Russian fuel assemblies as a model for manufacturing assemblies of FA-W. So, in fact, delivered to Ukraine fuel Assembly TVs-W are counterfeit. In addition, cloning technology is fraught with conflicts related to intellectual property issues, especially if some people or organizations of Ukraine passed the Pindosis private information on the Russian cassettes.

In 2005, the first six cassettes FA-W, transferred to the Ukrainian side for free, were delivered at the South-Ukrainian NPP and began the procedure of the input control. Control of the Ukrainian experts have concluded that the Pindosi fuel assemblies insufficient rigidity of the grid spacers and they do not correspond to the quality provided by the Russian supplier. An independent assessment of fuel assemblies fuel Assembly-W held the chair of nuclear power plants of the Odessa Polytechnic University, which gave a negative opinion on the operation of the fuel Westinghouse in VVER-1000 reactors. Despite the negative conclusions without sufficient operating experience, it was decided to proceed to the next stage: the annual loading unit of the Pindosi fuel and, at the request of the Ukrainian side, the Pindosi fuel would be used in the reactor together with the Russian. In 2008, NNEGC “Energoatom” and Westinghouse signed a supply agreement for the South-Ukrainian NPP in the period from 2011 to 2015 Pindosi fuel in sufficient quantity to annual planned partial overload three units. After the signing of the Pindosi-Ukraine contract for the supply of fuel assemblies for three blocks South-Ukrainian NPP with the prospect of supply of its fuel to six blocks of other nuclear power plants of Ukraine till 2015, Westinghouse in 2010 put the first batch (210 pieces) fuel assemblies FA-W, made by the Swedish subsidiary of the concern for pilot operation units of the South-Ukrainian NPP. Into the reactor of unit 2 was loaded Assembly 42 and 84 assemblies in the reactor of unit 3.

In Apr 2012, units of the South-Ukrainian NPP, were reported violations in the work of the assemblies of the type FA-W. emergency order all Pindosi assemblies have been fully discharged after discovery of damage, mainly deformations of the grid spacers. Ukrainian experts came to the conclusion that damage to the assemblies (the deformation and damage of several rims grid spacers, unreliability, poor construction of liners and other defects were caused by design defects manufacturer. The investigation of the breach in the reactor associated with detected during routine inspection of mechanical damage assemblies FA-W conducted and the Commission, which confirmed the root cause structural disadvantages of grid spacers and liners fuel assemblies. Official representatives of Westinghouse stated that they have no relation to these injuries, and they were all caused fuel assemblies at the time of their transportation and loading into the reactor by Ukrainian specialists. Representatives of Westinghouse referred to the poor level of training and qualification of Ukrainians, despite the fact that all of them were trained at the firm Westinghouse and to do this successfully for 30 years exploited the Russian fuel and involved Russia’s Atomstroyexport to work on the Bushehr nuclear power plant Kudankulam. However, design flaws of the Pindosi fuel assemblies were recognized by all the experts involved in the work, including two representatives of Westinghouse.

To reduce losses from substandard Pindosi Assembly, part Assembly FA-W which were found to be intact in 2012 were loaded back into the reactor of the South-Ukrainian NPP: 27 in the second block station and 66 in the third. The missing number of assemblies (58 fresh fuel assemblies) was compensated by excess fuel of Russian production, promptly delivered by the fuel company “TVEL”. In the summer of 2013 during scheduled preventive maintenance on the unit 2 were identified minor deformation and damage several rims grid spacers on three fuel assemblies production Westinghouse, after which all 27 assemblies were re-uploaded. On close inspection of the State nuclear regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine banned Pindosi fuel at unit 2. Unit No. 3 South Ukraine NPP provides only the afterburning previously loaded fuel Westinghouse (66 fuel assemblies), the inspection of which now requires significant additional costs.

Currently still ban the State nuclear regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine on the use and import of fresh fuel Westinghouse on the territory of Ukraine. For a single unit of fresh fuel TVs-W still will not start, and already in country new fuel Westinghouse will lie in store. The possibility of further use of fuel Westinghouse still depends on how much will be eliminated his design defects and how successful is the program of experimental operation of the modified fuel. Yet… Because, recall, Pindosified PM Yatsenyuk has fired the head of the state nuclear regulatory Committee Elena Mykolaychuk and the Chief state inspector of the state nuclear regulatory Committee Michael Guseva, who proved the extreme danger of the Pindosi fuel. The road to another "Chernobyl" contract for the supply of fuel by the Pindosi company Westinghouse for three nuclear power units of Ukrainian NPPs is open.

Approx. FLB: by the Way, "Westinghouse" Ukrainian NPPs in 2008 was provided by the Target plan for Ukraine's entry into NATO. (See material "The end of operation Autograph 3.1" As Yatsenyuk and Tymoshenko have exchanged Ukraine. Open "visa" for NATO)

In addition to technical incidents with Pindosi fuel assemblies, it is necessary to specify and economic losses NNEGC "Energoatom" from the use of the Westinghouse fuel. The price of Pindosi fuel Assemblies is approximately 20% higher than the Russian. The cost of the contract for the supply 168 fuel assemblies for South-Ukrainian NPP, signed in 2008 amounted to $175m. Another $100m amounted to losses of Enerhoatom from purchased and unused FA-W. Additional costs and requires the storage of these assemblies, the further use of which is questionable. Assessment of the status and possible structural deficiencies of the fuel assemblies fuel Assembly-W with a view to their improvement will be conducted by the Swedish Department of Concern "Westinghouse". The cost of the contract for execution of these works $860,000, which must be added to the losses "Energoatom" from diversification of fuel supplies. Losses "Energoatom" refers procurement in Russia for more fuel assemblies for replacement of discharged fuel assemblies. Significant costs will require the handling of irradiated fuel FA-W. Russian SNF Ukrainian VVER-1000 long-term agreements is transported to a centralized repository of the mining and chemical combine. Long-term storage of spent fuel in Ukraine is not, and Westinghouse irradiated fuel, including damaged, do not accept. Practically the only option is to send it to the reprocessing plant Thorp in the UK, however, the cost of processing, which will be paid by "Energoatom", several million dollars. Finally, due to forced outage of two blocks South Ukraine NPP "Energoatom" earned for undelivered electricity of about $75m (in accordance with the time rate). Summarizing the above data, we can estimate the expenditures of Ukraine for the diversification of supply of nuclear fuel as a regular charge for incompetence and the politicization of the nuclear industry.

In conclusion it must be emphasized that the reactor is designed as a single integrated system that meets the stringent safety requirements and includes all internals, fuel assemblies, and others responsible for the normal operation of the reactor and, mainly, for nuclear safety rests with the designer, so any changes in the design and replacement of any items should be consistent. The safety of nuclear installations are of paramount importance, and no political or economic decisions should be taken into account.

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