KIEV, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine could sign a contract with multinational Westinghouse next week on nuclear fuel deliveries in an effort to diversity its fuel sources, the country's Minister of Energy and the Coal Industry Yuri Prodan said Thursday.
The minister expressed hope that Ukraine's Energoatom would sign the fuel supply contract with Westinghouse to refuel three reactors, adding that the necessary preliminary talks had already been completed.
Russia's Rosatom said late last month that its fuel deliveries to Ukraine remain uninterrupted, despite the ongoing political turmoil in the country. Rosatom reaffirmed that it remains a stable international partner and will fulfill all contractual obligations, including nuclear fuel deliveries.
A switch to a foreign supplier of nuclear fuel may help Ukraine diversify away from Russian energy resources, yet the country's plants were designed to work best with Russian-produced components, and the new fuel could cause serious problems in their safe operation.
In 2012, the power-generating units at a Ukrainian nuclear plant experienced problems while conducting a trial run of a special Westinghouse fuel blend made for Soviet and Russian reactors. Ukrainian technicians later traced the problems to defects on the part of Westinghouse.
US-based Westinghouse, a major multinational specializing in nuclear engineering for electricity production, had already tested its products in Soviet-built plants in Ukraine during the presidency of the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko.
The current attempt to re-start supplies comes as the country's energy security is at stake after Russia's Gazprom has withdrawn a discount on natural gas provided by Moscow under earlier agreements to aid the country's ailing economy.
As Crimea has officially become a new subject of the Russian Federation, Moscow withdrew a discount that Ukraine received in exchange for basing rights for Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.