Framatome extends partnership with Slovakia’s nuclear operator

June 6, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
From left, Framatome’s CEO Bernard Fontana shakes hands with Slovenské Elektrárne’s CEO Branislav Strýček following the signing of an MOU. Also pictured is first vice chairman of Slovenské Elektrárne’s board of directors, Michele Bologna.

Slovakia’s Slovenské Elektrárne—operator of the nation’s two nuclear power plants, Bohunice and Mochovce—and France’s Framatome have signed a memorandum of understanding for the development of a global strategic relationship, the companies announced last week.

The signing took place on May 31 in Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital, during a meeting between Slovakian president Zuzana Čaputová and French president Emmanuel Macron.

The MOU sets up the basis for future strategy and an agreement for further discussions regarding the extension of the companies’ long-term commercial relationship in the field of nuclear energy, according to the announcement.

Cooperation on a long-term solution for fuel diversification at Bohunice's and Mochovce’s four VVER-440 units is one of the key elements of the MOU, the companies said, along with nuclear operations and maintenance, safety, instrumentation and control, cybersecurity, and the feasibility of nuclear medicine and radioisotope production in Slovakia.

Signers’ language: “Framatome is fully engaged in supporting the Slovak Republic nuclear industry and energy policy,” stated Bernard Fontana, Framatome’s chief executive officer. “This agreement confirms the trust our customer, Slovenské Elektrárne, has placed in us over the years. This further demonstrates our will to pursue this strong cooperation that contributes to Slovakia’s national security and diversification of supply for their VVER plants. Our customers count on our robust and reliable expertise, experience, and integrated supply chain—especially in the area of nuclear fuel.”

Branislav Strýček, CEO of Slovenské Elektrárne, noted that Slovakia’s nuclear plants are “key pillars” of his nation’s energy security and that nuclear fuel diversification for Bohunice and Mochovce is among the company’s “main tasks.”

MOU motivation: Due to “the current international context,” all European VVER operators, including Slovenské Elektrárne, have asked Framatome “to contribute to the development of a sovereign European fuel solution that avoids any disruption in critical services and reduced dependence on European imports,” according to Framatome’s announcement.

In the short term, Framatome is setting up its European fuel manufacturing facilities and supply chain operations “based on the proven, reliable, and efficient incumbent fuel used by the European VVER reactors,” the French company said, adding that “for the mid-term, Framatome is progressing on the development of a fully European sovereign nuclear fuel product with the support and cooperation of the European VVER utilities.”

Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of Framatome’s fuel business unit, commented, “For several years now, Framatome has been developing an industrial solution to support VVER nuclear operators with respective short- and midterm needs, for both VVER 1,000-MW and VVER-440-MW reactors. In the midterm, Framatome is the only fuel supplier able to guarantee a sovereign European solution, including 100 percent European design, manufacturing, and components supply chain, based on a long-term and proven expertise and track records.”

Currently, there are 18 Russian-supplied VVER reactors operating in Europe. In addition to Slovakia’s four VVER-440 units at Bohunice and Mochovce (a third unit at Mochovce is expected to enter commercial service later this year), there are two VVER-1000s in Bulgaria, four VVER-440s and two VVER-1000s in the Czech Republic, two VVER-440s in Finland, and four VVER-440s in Hungary.

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