On August 26, 2014, Ukraine’s nuclear elite gathered in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to commemorate the initiation of the long planned Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF). The site’s cornerstone placard was planted by Energoatom’s President Yuriy Nedashkovsky and Holtec International’s President and CEO, Dr. Kris Singh in a festive ceremony witnessed by Ukraine’s national media. The presence of key dignitaries, such as the Chairman of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, Mr. Sergiy Bozhko, demonstrated a unified national dedication to the project, and its strategic energy importance to Ukraine.
Ukraine produces nearly half of the country’s energy from its nuclear reactors and boasts Europe’s third largest commercial nuclear program. When completed in 2017, this Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility will end Ukraine’s reliance on Russia to store their spent nuclear fuel, a situation that dates back decades to Soviet times. In addition to the obvious strategic leverage held over Ukraine by Russia, the annual storage fee payments have been escalating rapidly over the years. The ceremony was thus a fitting symbol of Ukraine’s resolve to throw off the heavy economic dependency on Russia, and to achieve complete operational independence in regard to managing and storing their spent fuel discharged by their reactors.
Speaking at the press conference after the ceremony, Holtec International’s President & CEO, Dr. Kris Singh, promised to provide “the best in fuel storage technology to Ukraine and to leverage the Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility project to help foster increased domestic employment”. The reaction from the country’s national media to the event has been uniformly positive.
Holtec won the “central store” project in an international tender back in 2005; however, the project soon fell into dormancy and remained stalled for over eight years. The project’s fortunes changed dramatically after the new government came into power early this year, and decided to accord the Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility project the national priority its strategic and financial imperatives warrant.
Holtec’s executive in charge of Eurasian operations, Mr. Riaz Awan, who was DOE’ s long serving official in the region before his retirement from government service in 2011, bemoaned the lack of progress in the US of a similar national solution, and praised the embattled nation’s sense of resolve saying, “Ukraine’s national consensus to establish a national nuclear spent fuel storage facility is in sharp contrast to America’s, where the Private Storage Facility at the Goshute reservation in Skull Valley, Utah remains comatose because of political disagreements, despite having been licensed by the USNRC over a decade ago”.
Like Ukraine’s national facility, Holtec’s HI-STORM ventilated system is the designated technology for the Skull Valley site; however, for added safety, the welded multi-purpose canisters employed at the CSFSF site will be of a double wall construction, just like its sister facility for storing Chernobyl’s spent fuel, located a few kilometers away. Holtec is the technology provider and principal contractor for both the CSFSF and the Chernobyl projects, the latter being funded by a group of donors that includes the United States.