A private U.S. nuclear energy company could begin helping Ukraine in the production of enriched uranium, the fuel in nuclear power plants, according to a statement on Thursday from Kiev’s nuclear authority, Yadernoye Toplivo. The meeting, which took place on June 23 in Kiev between ConverDyn and Ukrainian officials, is another indication of Kiev’s attempts to diversify its future energy needs and distance itself from Russian-produced energy, reports pro-Ukrainian news website UNIAN.
Currently Russia provides Ukraine with 95 percent of the fuel required to run its 15 nuclear power plants.
"At present, ConverDyn is interested in cooperation with Ukrainian companies in the field of uranium conversion services for Ukraine’s nuclear energy industry," the official statement reads. "During the meeting, the parties discussed the potential possibility of jointly building the uranium hexafluoride production facilities in Ukraine."
Details of the deal come just a day after Russia switched off natural gas supplies to Ukraine after both parties were unable to agree on the price for Ukraine’s gas needs over the summer and winter. The failure means Ukraine is likely to face gas shortages from October until March. While Kiev can rely on supplies from Poland and Slovakia to get it through the remainder of summer, it will need to go back to the negotiating table with Russia in the fall or potentially face huge shortfalls in winter.
Aside from Russian suppliers, Ukraine has been receiving enriched uranium from U.S.-based Westinghouse and Areva, a French company, reports UNIAN. But ConverDyn wants to help Ukraine go a step further by producing its own fuel and allow it to distance itself from Russia.
Ukraine currently mines uranium for enrichment in Russia then buys it back as fuel for its plants.
In April this year, Ukraine canceled a joint project with Russia to build a uranium enrichment plant, according to Tass, a Kremlin-owned news website. Ukraine's Minister of Energy and Coalmining Vladimir Demchishin said the agreement "was poorly drafted and there are dubious questions around the commitment of certain parties." He added: "We’ll denounce the agreement and, in most probability, this will be done by law."