In 2014, Ukraine and Westinghouse reached an agreement to supply nuclear fuel to some Ukrainian NPPs. The alleged reason behind the contract was the need to help Ukraine become energetically independent from Russia. Russia was a long-time supplier of nuclear fuel to Ukraine.
Experts have repeatedly warned that the deal would create serious risks for the safety of Ukrainian NPPs.
They cited the example of an incident which took place several years ago at the Temelin nuclear power plant, in the Czech Republic. The NPP operated on Russian-designed reactors and used fuel supplied by Westinghouse. The fuel was leaking and the rods were bending. All the Westinghouse fuel was removed from the core and replaced with Russian-made fuel.
As for Ukraine, the company announced that its fuel for Ukrainian NPPs had been improved.
According to Forbes, the two Westinghouse-made assemblies were found leaking during a scheduled outage at the third unit of the NPP.
The author of the article, Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza described how Washington has promoted Westinghouse’s interest in Eastern Europe, neglecting safety recommendations.
"Westinghouse is more than a brand name American power company. It’s a battering ram used by Washington to promote energy security," the author wrote.
A source who wished to remain anonymous told Forbes that Westinghouse wants a market share in Eastern Europe in a bid to prevent the company from insolvency.
"Their new reactor division is loss-making, the fuel division is their only cash cow and it is not growing and existing margins are getting slimmer and slimmer. We think Westinghouse has spent millions of dollars to include nuclear fuel as part of the energy security narrative, and the current EU sentiment against Russia play into their hand," the source said.
"But derailing nuclear projects while running into technical difficulties with Westinghouse fuel assemblies in Rosatom reactors is a dangerous way to promote energy security," Rapoza noted.
According to former Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, the US has been promoting Westinghouse for years.
In the 1990s, US diplomats supported contribution between the Czech Republic and Westinghouse. The company pledged to improve Russian-designed nuclear plants to Western standards.
After, Westinghouse’s fuel assemblies were found leaking in the 2000s the Czech company CEZ decided to return to Russian-made nuclear fuel for the Temelin NPP.
"CEZ’s decision serves as a testament to the fact that the Russian fuel assembly was safer and that Washington was selling a product that did not quite work at the time, potentially putting nuclear power plants in danger," the article read.
US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton was also involved in promoting Westinghouse in Eastern Europe. In 2012 when she served as US State Secretary Clinton met with then Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, using the energy security argument to promote the company.
According to the article, Westinghouse can produce fuel for Russia-designed reactors as well as Rosatom can build fuel assemblies for Western-designed power units. However, for third parties working with Westinghouse is less economically efficient.
"Russia is the cheaper producer of the two, so when countries turn to Westinghouse for the fuel assemblies, they have to pay a premium for diversification," Rapoza wrote.
Nevertheless, the largest initiative by Westinghouse is squeezing Russia from the Ukrainian nuclear fuel market, using again the argument of diversifying supplies.
"Two years later, then-Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk consulted Westinghouse on picking a new nuclear safety regulator for his new government," the author wrote citing a source in Ukraine.
In April, the Ukrainian Energy Ministry announced it would buy more nuclear fuel from Westinghouse. The company is planning to deliver five reloads of fuel to South Ukraine and Zaporizhia NPPs.
According to the author, Westinghouse’s commercial interests are closely tied to politics and thus the company neglects safety.
"Regardless, anti-Russia politics trumps technological problems," Rapoza concluded.