Ukraine’s nuclear industry is set to become a new growth point for Europe

- Ukraine is in the world’s top ten nuclear energy producers and possesses a skilled labour force - Ukraine has huge deposits of the natural resources necessary for the nuclear energy sector - Ukrainian nuclear industry can help EU diversify its energy imports, and reduce the dependency on hydrocarbon in favour of nuclear energy 

 

Ukraine has abundant mineral resources including elements crucial for nuclear power. It is in the Top 10 of the world's production of uranium from mines, and has almost twice as much uranium as the US. Ukraine has 25% of the world's reserves of titanium — metal used in the nuclear power industry. Ukraine also has significant reserves of zirconium ore.

But Ukraine's mineral raw material base is under-valued and under-developed. Investment by modern mineral exploration companies can remedy the situation. It is necessary to prepare deposits for developing, so that large international investors can enter the country. 

“As a country with such a rich mineral resource base, Ukraine should have a well-developed infrastructure including the one for preparation of deposits for investments. For that to happen, deep and detailed work of new generation geological companies is required — companies that are ready to take the risks of preliminary preparation. We took this risk because we believe that the mining industry of Ukraine is exceptionally investment intensive and attractive,” says Olexander Nastenko, director of Ukrgeoposhuk, a company engaged in the preparation of prospective geological facilities for industrial development. 

“We, the representatives of Ukrainian large capital, see the potential of the mineral and raw materials base, power engineering, and industry in general. At the same time, we see a huge underestimation of the country as a whole, as well as of separate industries. This is due to the need for structural reforms. Local capital understands the importance of applying western standards in the mining and energy sector of Ukraine, since even the very transition to these standards increases the capitalization of the country, and hence of the business here. We are working to ensure that the capitalization of our country grows, and any investor could feel it,” says Gennadiy Butkevych, Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Nuclear Energy Systems of Ukraine, LLC.

With such a comprehensive energy potential, Ukraine can become a new growth point for the whole of Europe. The development of nuclear industry here is a win win for both Ukraine and the European Union. Ukraine will benefit from jobs and investment. The EU will have an opportunity to diversify its energy imports from oil and gas to a universal end-product — reliable, stable and clean nuclear energy. 

Ukraine is in the world’s top ten nuclear energy. NPPs already supply more than half the energy needs of the country, and this is only set to increase. According to Vitaliy Yakimenko, head of R&D at NESU, “Ukraine’s advantage is its scientific and technical base and NPP [nuclear power plant] personnel training system, which is impossible to recreate in the short term since it has been formed over decades. Ukraine’s scientific potential in the nuclear industry in the long term may become our export potential, since we can export knowledge and developments.” 

“Nuclear energy can and should become one of Ukraine’s main points of economic growth,” says Vitalii Demianiuk, chairman of the supervisory board at NT-Engineering, a company specialising in nuclear safety. “To do this, the industry must go through a qualitative modernisation with the use of innovative technologies, including new types of reactors that will replace the old ones. And then Ukraine will be able to become a key electricity supplier to Europe. We will be able to replace the EU’s hydrocarbon flows with our electric flows.” 

Plans have been drawn up to expand and modernize Ukraine’s nuclear industry in all the components: development of raw materials, fuel supply, production of equipment and introduction of new nuclear technologies. The latter refers to a new type of reactor — small modular reactors (SMR), which are prioritized in the US and the EU, where SMRs are being licensed and prepared for implementation. Ukraine has successfully blended into this trend. 

Innovations in Ukraine’s nuclear power industry will be implemented both by the state and by private business. Energoatom, Ukraine’s national nuclear operator, supports the replacement of its fleet of Soviet reactors for SMRs. Thus, in February 2018 Energoatom and Holtec International have signed a Memorandum that envisages Ukraine to adopt the SMR-160 technology to meet its projected needs for clean power. Ukraine may also become a manufacturing hub for SMR-160 components and systems. In May 2018, a memorandum on the implementation of the SMR-160 project was signed with a private Ukrainian company, Nuclear Energy Systems of Ukraine. 

“I applaud Ukraine’s industrialists for their entrepreneurial spirit to coax valuable metals needed to generate nuclear power,” says Dr Kris Singh, president and CEO of Holtec International. “Ukraine is second only to France in the share of nuclear in its energy mix. Thanks to its highly trained pool of engineers and scientists, Ukraine is capable of replicating its nuclear plants to increase the share of nuclear. Holtec International is working with Ukraine’s leadership to introduce our safe SMR-160 reactor technology and to help develop it into a regional hub for building, operating and exporting them. Establishing a domestic supply of needed metals for the nuclear power cycle should be viewed as an essential element of the nation’s strategic plan.” 

Ukraine expects to start supplying electricity to the EU network as early as 2019 via the planned 'energy bridge' linking its power grid to Poland and Hungary. In 2017 the national energy company also signed an agreement with ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators, to connect to the networks of 34 European countries by 2025, thus entering a huge transnational energy market. 

 

See more details at http://growthforeurope.economist.com.

  • Zachary Reyes