Rosatom holds 17% of the global nuclear fuel market and supplies fuel to 15 countries. The last two years brought a breakthrough for the company. In addition to fuel for the Russian VVER reactors, Rosatom now offers fuel for Western-designed reactors.
The first contract was signed last year to deliver Russian TVS-K nuclear fuel to Sweden. Another agreement provides for this fuel to be promoted on the American market.
The development of nuclear fuel for PWR-type reactors started in the early 2000s. Rosatom’s fuel division TVEL had all the research, design and production capacities required for the project. The company completed all the calculations, testbed experiments and in-pile studies of different fuel components by 2007 and came to the conclusion that it was capable of offering the market a new product.
The TVS-K design incorporates the best solutions used in Western-designed fuel assemblies and time-proven solutions used in the Russian nuclear fuel. When developing TVS-K, Russian engineers applied the latest technology used in the fuel assemblies for VVER reactors. As a result, the Russian-designed fuel for PWR reactors is fully comparable with Western fuel and even outperforms it by a number of parameters.
In 2008, TVEL began working in close contact with Swedish company Vattenfall that provided the data needed to finalize the project. It took TVEL two years to have been qualified as a fuel supplier. In 2011 Swedish partners made sure that Russian fuel TVS-K met their requirements and signed the contract to supply pilot fuel assemblies for the Ringhals Nuclear Power Plant.
Last December in Stockholm, TVEL signed a contract to supply TVS-K fuel assemblies for Ringhals Units 3 and 4. The first shipment of Russian fuel assemblies is scheduled for 2021. The contract with TVEL makes it possible for Vattenfall to diversify nuclear fuel supplies and increase operating efficiency of its reactors. The contract also means that Vattenfall has recognized the quality of Russian fuel assemblies and brought the Russian producer into line with the long-standing Western fuel manufacturers, Areva and Westinghouse.
The Russian company plans to enter the American market. An agreement to this effect was signed in 2016 with Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A). The parties formed a consortium to market TVS-K assemblies in the USA. As a member of the consortium, GNF-A will run the project in the United States, manage licensing and QA processes, and provide engineering services. TVEL will provide technical support and expertise in TVS-K fuel design, and fabricate the first fuel assemblies to be piloted at its facilities. The joint project provides for TVS-K production to be established in the USA. The country has 99 operating power reactors, most of them being PWR.
Most nuclear industry experts recognize that TVS-K fuel assemblies comply with technical and operating requirements for PWR fuel. TVS-K is a unique type of fuel as it is based on another technology and uses a different design, including another alloy for the cladding. This makes it a real alternative to the fuel for Western-designed reactors and a way to diversify fuel supplies.
The contracts signed will definitely become a driver for TVEL to reach its strategic goal of increasing the Russian share in the global fuel fabrication market from 17% to 22% by 2030. At present, TVEL and TENEX (another subsidiary of Rosatom) jointly hold a 36% share in the world’s uranium market and can potentially increase to 40% within the same period.