site.btaNuclear Regulatory Agency Chair: Westinghouse Fuel Licensing Application Not Yet Submitted to Regulator
On 22 December 2022, the Kozloduy N-plant and Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB signed an agreement for the supply of fresh nuclear fuel for Kozloduy's Unit 5. It is expected to refuel in mid-2024. In 2024, the full nuclear fuel license will be obtained. It is fully compatible with the technology at Kozloduy NPP.
BTA approached the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA), Tsanko Bachiiski, on the matter and he said that the regulator has not yet received an application from Kozloduy for a licence for the Westinghouse fuel. He added that the length of the licensing procedure depends primarily on the safety assessment. If the supply of fresh nuclear fuel stops now, Unit 5 can still run until 2024 and Unit 6 until 2027, Bachiiski said.
The full interview follows:
Q: The process of licensing fresh nuclear fuel from Westinghouse for the Kozloduy N-plant is due to start this year. Energy Minister Rossen Hristov has said the full licence is expected in mid-2024, as is the delivery of fuel. You, however, said during a news conference at the Nuclear Regulatory Agency that the timeframe [for the lisensing procedure] and the licensee's intentions are not very clear. What will happen if Westinghouse's fuel does not get the licence?
A: If the Westinghouse fuel is not authorized for use, the Kozloduy N-plant should offer alternative refuelling options as provided for in the licence for the operation of Unit 5.
Q: The fuel licensing process starts with an application from the licensee to use a new fuel type. Have you received an application from the Kozloduy N-plant?
A: The regulator has not yet received an application.
Q: How long does the licensing procedure for new fresh nuclear fuel take?
A: The length of the licensing procedure depends primarily on the safety assessment: how thorough it is and what it says. Practice in Bulgaria and other EU countries shows that licensing can take from one to several years.
Q: What are the chances that the Nuclear Regulatory Agency refuse to license the Westinghouse fuel?
A: As I mentioned a bit earlier, a new type of nuclear fuel is only put in use if proven to be safe. The regulator chief can only refuse to issue a licence if the licensee fails to prove the safety of the nuclear fuel.
Q: If Westinghouse's fuel is granted the necessary licence for use, how does the loading happen?
A: The refuelling of the reactor core with a new type of fuel takes over four years. One quarter of the reactor core is refueled each year with the new fuel. For three years, the reactor operates with a mixture of the two fuels until only the new fuel remains in the fourth year. The transition from TVSA to TVSA-12 for Unit 6 was also carried out according to this scheme.
Q: The Kozloduy N-plant and Framatom signed an agreement for supply of fresh nuclear fuel for Unit 6. The first refuelling is expected to take place in autumn of 2025. Framatom's fuel is licensed. Does this mean that there will be no problem with its use?
A: Framatom has a license from TVEL to produce TVSA-12, which does not mean that the fuel is licensed [for use by Kozloduy]. Getting permission to use it at Kozloduy's Unit 6 will go through the full licensing procedure with the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. Since this fuel is well known to NRA, the licensing time is likely to be shorter.
Q: The contract with Westinghouse and the agreement with Framatome do not deal with spent fuel. What are we going to do with it?
A: The handling of spent nuclear fuel should not be linked to the contract for the supply of fresh nuclear fuel. The fact that we currently have such a commitment from the Russian side in the existing contract does not mean that the same should be expected of another supplier. According to the national strategy for the management of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste, spent fuel will be exported for reprocessing until no more is left on the Kozloduy site. An update of the national strategy is currently in the pipeline but this particular aspect of it will remain unchanged in the new strategy. It has always been, and will continue to be, the position of the NRA that spent nuclear fuel should be sent away for reprocessing.
Q: If the supply of fresh nuclear fuel from Russia stops completely, for how long is the operation of Kozloduy secured with what it has?
A: If the supply of fresh nuclear fuel stops as we speak, Unit 5 has fresh nuclear fuel, TVSA, that will keep it in operation until 2024 and Unit 6 has enough TVSA-12 until 2027. More details about that can be obtained from the Kozloduy N-plant.