Bulgaria to veto sanctions against Russian nuclear fuel

Bulgaria cannot accept sanctions against Russian nuclear fuel, because this will directly affect our nuclear energy, President Rumen Radev told Bulgarian journalists in Brussels, where he arrived to participate in the extraordinary meeting of the European Council.

It can’t happen. We consider all possible areas where this could happen but where our interests are directly at stake we are very careful. If necessary we will impose a veto

Rumen Radev, President of Bulgaria

Bulgaria has delayed the process of finding alternative nuclear suppliers for the Kozloduy NPP , even though the EU already prepared a strategy for the diversification of the energy sources of the member states in 2014. However, the first steps in this direction were taken in 2015, when in our country it was decided that the 5th unit should first switch to non-Russian fuel . In 2019, a Diversification Program was signed with Euroatom, in which 3 stages and a time frame for finalizing the process were outlined. The first stage ended at the end of 2020. However, the second stage got stuck because the American company “Westinghouse” appeared on the scene, which offered an alternative fuel. The evaluation process must go through very difficult procedures, in which the supplier must provide a total of 49 mandatory technical-technological analyzes of its product in stages . So far, the company has submitted only 29 to our nuclear regulator.

The situation was further complicated by the appearance in the summer of this year of a new candidate willing to replace Rosatom – the French Framatom . In October, the company officially announced its intentions to ensure supplies of the Kozloduy NPP after 2024, when Bulgaria contract with Russia’s TVEL, which is part of Rosatom, expires. This has created a stalemate in the Bulgarian energy sector and is about to cause an international scandal if someone at the highest levels of the country imagines that they can show sympathy for one of the two candidates – “Westinghouse” or “Framatom”. And there are no shortage of concerns in this direction. 

In a situation of direct competition between the two companies , the Nuclear Regulatory Agency will have the final say. It must evaluate their products in terms of safety, efficiency and compatibility with our nuclear reactors. However, according to experts in the nuclear industry, both companies do not meet one of the conditions recorded in the decision of the National Assembly – complete technological and legal independence from Russia .

If the Nuclear Regulatory Agency chooses the Westinghouse cartridges, then experts from the Russian Kurchatov Institute will have to enter the fuel data into the reactor system, as only they have such a contract with the Kozloduy NPP and are authorized to perform this activity. If the NRA prefers “Framatom”, whose cartridges are almost identical to the original ones, then the question arises how the French will bypass the Russian TVEL, with which they jointly participate in the production of French nuclear fuel .

There is one more feature, missed by the politicians in the parliament: most likely, if only these two players remain in the auction, then one of the two types of fuel – TVSA and TVSA-12 – will be chosen for each of the two reactors, but it it will necessarily have to be mixed with the old Russian for four years , since only a quarter of the cartridges are replaced with each annual reload.

The question of the fate of spent nuclear fuel also remains open. According to our current contract with Rosatom, this is a commitment of the Russian corporation. In the event of a change of suppliers, this will be the concern of the Bulgarian state.

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