Ukraine can decentralise its power supply network by building a series of “mini nuclear power plants”, British engineering giant Rolls Royce believes.
Rolls Royce is exploring rolling out its proposed Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to Ukraine, using the technology to convert former coal-fired power stations to nuclear. While the British SMR concept of cheaper, smaller reactors has yet to be proven in practice, Rolls Royce hopes to be also to roll out the power stations quickly and at a cheaper energy-unit cost than conventional, larger stations and is attempting to build SMRs for the British government as part of the rush to ‘net zero’.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports the proposed Rolls Royce construction of SMRs in Ukraine is being explored with Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov and that eight coal power stations are being investigated for conversion, including two presently in Russian-occupied territory.
Maxim Timchenko, chief executive of Akhmetov’s DTEK engineering business confirmed the talks were underway to the newspaper, saying: “We are trying to find a way to install these SMRs.
“From our side, we have quite a big capacity of coal-fired power stations and we are in discussions with Rolls-Royce SMR to convert [them].”
While switching away from Russian-produced fossil fuels is an important way for Europe — Ukraine included — to reduce its dependency on Russia, and hence the Kremlin’s hold over the continent, the fact remains the globe is dependent on Russia for nuclear fuel. Russia is capable of producing nuclear fuel very cheaply compared to, for instance, the United States and Moscow’s Rosatom is the dominant supplier on earth.
The Financial Times reported on the United States accusing Russia of damaging nuclear fuel production facilities in the rest of the world by “undercutting” them by selling its own product so cheaply. Nevertheless, the paper reported:
Washington has refrained from preventing Russia’s nuclear giant Rosatom from selling nuclear fuel and enrichment services to US and western power plant operators, as there are few alternative supply sources.
…There are only a handful of western suppliers of enrichment for nuclear fuel, including France’s Orano and Urenco, a UK, German and Dutch consortium. Tenex, a subsidiary of Rosatom, is the only company in the world providing commercial sales of a new type of fuel called Haleu — high-assay low-enriched uranium — that is enriched to between 5-20 per cent and could power a new generation of smaller, more efficient reactors.
A proposed ban on the United States importing Russian uranium is presently in the works and has passed the House of Representatives, but still has some way to go before it becomes law.