International collaboration drives urgent licensing of US nuclear fuel at Bulgarian Kozloduy NPP

The Czech Republic, along with two Ukrainian companies and a French institute, is aiding the Nuclear Regulatory Agency in expediting the licensing process for US Westinghouse’s fresh nuclear fuel destined for use in Unit V of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. To meet the pressing deadline, the regulatory body has set an internal target to complete the documentation by March 2024. This urgency arises from the impending arrival of the first shipment of this alternative to Russian fuel, scheduled for April 15, irrespective of Bulgarian licensing.

Failure to secure approval before the plant’s scheduled annual maintenance and 1/4 fuel change in May 2024 would render the plant inoperable. In such a scenario, the plant might resort to using available Russian fuel for Unit VI, known as TVSA-12. Although it differs from the fuel used in Unit V (TVSA), it is compatible and already licensed. Nonetheless, if TVSA-12 is deployed next year, it would necessitate its use for the subsequent three years before an analysis assesses its compatibility with Westinghouse’s fuel.

Foreign assistance has been enlisted, including contracts with the French Institute for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (IRSN) and a Czech-Ukrainian consortium. They provide expertise on safety analysis reports for licensing Westinghouse’s new RWFA nuclear fuel for Unit V. The French institute analyzed 20 safety reports concerning RWFA fuel throughout its life cycle, while the consortium assesses the compatibility of the new nuclear fuel with Unit V’s internal reactor control system. Meanwhile, the agency is working on issuing separate permits for the storage of Westinghouse nuclear fuel after use and for the transportation of cartridges from the Swedish factory to Kozloduy. Westinghouse’s internal reactor control system is being implemented alongside the existing Russian system, although it cannot analyze 3/4 of the Russian fuel due to a lack of input data. Ukraine may assist in achieving parallel operation of the Russian and American systems for internal reactor control.

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