We’ve sifted through facts and statistics on nuclear power in Ukraine to offer some choice insights here. Want more international nuclear data? Check out the March 2022 Nuclear News Reference Issue.
Locus of geopolitical tension
Fifteen operating nuclear power reactors and substantial uranium deposits are contained within the borders of Ukraine. Outside lie seven neighboring countries, including four NATO members—Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia—and two members of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization—Belarus and Russia. Moldova, which maintains official neutrality, includes a Russia-allied breakaway region known as Transnistria. Fighting has persisted between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in areas of eastern Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.
Over more than four decades, 19 Ukrainian reactors of Russian design entered commercial operation, and four—Chernobyl Units 1–4—were shut down.
1978: First Chernobyl unit starts up.
1981: First Rivne unit begins commercial operation.
1983: First South Ukraine unit comes on line.
1984: Chernobyl-4 begins commercial operation.
1985: First Zaporizhzhia unit starts up.
1986: Chernobyl-4 accident occurs.
1987: Zaporizhzhia-3 becomes first new Ukrainian unit to start up after the accident.
1988: First Khmelnytskyi unit begins operation.
1991: Ukraine declares independence from the Soviet Union.
1996: Zaporizhzhia-6 becomes the first of three units to begin operations after the fall of the Soviet Union.
2000: Last Chernobyl reactor (Unit 3) is shut down.
2005: Lead test assemblies of Westinghouse-manufactured fuel loaded in South Ukraine-3.
2006: Ukraine’s newest reactor—Rivne-4—starts up.
2014: Russia invades Crimea.
2021: Energoatom signs contract with Westinghouse for AP1000 reactor at Khmelnytskyi.
Nuclear share of generation
Ukraine ranked third in the world for grid reliance on nuclear-generated electricity in 2020, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, getting 51.2 percent of its electricity—71.55 GWh—from nuclear power. (Coal came in second, at about 30 percent.)
All of Ukraine’s 15 operating reactors are of Russian VVER design (the four Chernobyl reactors were Russian RBMKs). Other countries with operating fleets comprised solely of Russia-designed reactors are Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iran, Russia, and Slovakia.
Data: IAEA PRIS
Ukraine logged 533 full reactor years of operating experience by the end of 2020, according to the IAEA, ranking 10th out of the 36 countries with nuclear operating experience. Here’s a look at how Ukraine stacks up against the other 11 countries in the top third of the rankings.
Data: IAEA Reference Data Series No. 2, “Nuclear Power Reactors in the World,” © IAEA 2021, iaea.org/publications/14989/nuclear-power-reactors-in-the-world
U.S. technology in Ukraine
Ukraine pursued the qualification of VVER-style fuel from Westinghouse in the mid-2000s in a bid to end its dependence on Russian supplies. In recent years, Ukraine has continued to look to the United States for nuclear fuel, services, and new reactor technology.
February 28, 2018: Holtec International and Energoatom sign a memorandum of understanding to license and build Holtec’s SMR-160 design.
August 20, 2021: Ukraine celebrates the commissioning of the Centralized Spent Fuel Storage Facility, based on Holtec technology, marking the end to exports of spent fuel to Russia. (Photo: Holtec)
August 31, 2021: Westinghouse and Energoatom sign an agreement on plans to construct multiple AP1000s in Ukraine.
September 9, 2021: Energoatom and NuScale Power sign an MOU to study the possibility of constructing NuScale VOYGR modules in Ukraine.
November 22, 2021: Westinghouse and Energoatom sign a contract for the first AP1000 at Khmelnytskyi. (Photo: Energoatom)
Ukraine added most of its existing nuclear capacity between 1982 and 1989. Reactors in the aging fleet will be approaching 60 years of operation by 2040.
In December, Energoatom said it anticipates that 14 new reactors will be needed to replace nuclear generation capacity and meet electricity demand—three at Khmelnytskyi, one each at the Zaporizhzhia, Rivne, and South Ukraine sites, and eight more at two new nuclear power plants.
“Our goal is 24 GW of nuclear capacity by 2040,” said Petro Kotin, acting president of Energoatom, as he signed a contract with Westinghouse in November 2021 that will allow work to begin on the first AP1000 reactor planned for the Khmelnytskyi site.
Data: Nuclear News, “World List of Nuclear Power Plants,” 1979–2021