Bellona nuclear digest. April 2024 

Illustration from Rosatom photo by Bellona
Illustration from Rosatom photo by Bellona

Publish date: 07/06/2024

A survey of events in the field of nuclear and radiation safety relating to Russia and Ukraine.

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Bellona ceased its activity in the aggressor country. On 18 April 2023, the Russian general prosecutor’s office declared Bellona to be an undesirable organization. 

However, we continue to monitor events in the field of nuclear and radiation safety relating to Russia and Ukraine, which we believe are of interest to foreign readers. We analyze the situation in order to assess the degree of Russia’s international influence on other countries and the risks connected with this. We present you with a survey of these events for April 2024, with comments by experts of Bellona’s nuclear project Alexander Nikitin and Dmitry Gorchakov. 

Follow the links to read the last three digests for March, February and January. Subscribe to our mailing list to make sure you don’t miss the next digest. 

In this issue: 

1. Zaporizhzhia NPP. Event timeline for April 2024 
2. Nuclear construction sites in Ukraine 

3. Westinghouse fuel delivered to Kozloduy NPP in Bulgaria 
4. USA passes law banning import of Russian uranium 
5. G7 ministerial meeting on climate, energy and environment 
6. Rosatom German asset declares bankruptcy 

7. Bangladesh plans construction of two more units 
8. Rosatom’s projects abroad in brief 

9. The federal targeted program “Ensuring nuclear and radiation safety”. Results for 2023 

Nuclear events in Ukraine and the war 

Zaporizhzhia NPP. Event timeline for April 2024 ↑

For the first time since November 2022, the ZNPP became a direct target of military operations, suffering a series of drone attacks. This was the first clear violation of the five concrete principles for protection of the site established by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi at the UN Security Council in May 2023. 

On 5 April, the Russian side reported drone attacks in the areas of the cargo port and nitrogen-oxygen station No. 2. 

On 7 April strikes were reported on an area adjacent to the canteen (three people were reported injured, and a food truck was damaged), in the area of the cargo port and the dome of unit 6. The IAEA team at the ZNPP received access to the attack locations on the same day. Mission experts confirmed the physical impact of explosions. While they were on the roof of unit 6, Russian forces attacked an approaching drone, which was followed by an explosion near the reactor building. In all three inspected locations, remnants of drones were detected. By the laboratory (evidently Russian reports described this location as a canteen), they saw bloodstains next to a damaged military vehicle. Plant structures important for nuclear safety and security did not receive severe structural damage (minor superficial scorching were observed on the dome of reactor unit 6 and scoring of a concrete slab which supports the primary make-up water storage tanks). 

IAEA mission inspectors at the ZNPP examine the location of a drone attack. Credit: INFCIRC/1196

Experts reported that throughout the day they heard explosions and rifle fire. Furthermore, the IAEA team heard several outgoing rounds of artillery fire near the plant. Later, they were also informed that on 7 April there were another two attacks outside the plant perimeter – on the nearby port and at the training center, and on 8 April a drone was shot down over the turbine hall of unit 6, without causing an explosion. When the IAEA team requested an inspection of all of these locations (including after the attack on 5 April), they received a refusal for reasons of safety. 

Russia accused the Ukrainian army of being responsible for the attacks, while the Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence announced that Ukraine was not involved in any armed acts of provocation at the occupied ZNPP, and that the strikes were carried out by the Russian side. 

On 9 April, a drone exploded on the roof of the ZNPP training center, which is located outside the perimeter of the site, approximately 500 meters from unit 1. The IAEA team immediately requested access to the building to assess possible impact, but was informed that this was not permitted for reasons of military security. 

On 11 April, a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna was held, in connection with two letters sent by, in chronological order, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The meeting was closed to the press. In his opening remarks, Grossi called on persons taking military decisions to refrain from any actions that violate the five concrete principles of IAEA to present nuclear accidents and ensure the integrity of the plant, and on the international community to work actively on de-escalating this very serious situation. 

On 15 April, a meeting of the UN Security Council was held concerning the situation at the ZNPP. Council members called for an immediate stop to attacks on the Zaporizhzhia NPP and stressed the need for reducing the risk of a nuclear accident. While some members called on all sides of the conflict to hold dialogue and show restraint, others spoke of the invasion by the Russian Federation and the occupation of the ZNPP as a source of risk, and called for Moscow to put the site back under Ukraine’s control. 

The representative of the Russian Federation said that it “sounds strange” when the IAEA general director uses impersonal phrases in discussing attacks on the Zaporizhzhia NPP, although the IAEA knows who is responsible, as its staff are present at the plant. 

The representative of Ukraine noted that the “only root cause of all risks to nuclear safety and security is Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression on Ukraine.” 

He stated that the incidents on 7 and 9 April were a “well-planned false flag operation by the Russian Federation”, intended to shift emphasis from the only method of eliminating threats to nuclear safety – ending the occupation of the plant. With this aim, Russia wants the world to believe that nuclear reactors, designed to withstand the most severe strikes, were attacked by drones of weak attack capacity and short range, designed to attack infantry and small equipment. 

Meanwhile, the gradual militarization of the plant and the surrounding area remain part of the military strategy of the Russian Federation. 

The representative of Ukraine drew attention to the reports by the IAEA team at the ZNPP concerning outgoing artillery fire in the plant environs, the presence of Russian military equipment and personnel, confirmed by independent observers and IAEA, and the refusal to permit IAEA experts access to certain places at the plant. He also noted that the military actions of the Russian Federation regularly cause the off-site power supply to be cut off, and described other violations in detail, including anti-infantry mines laid around the plant perimeter, switching off the automated radiation data transmission, and failure to provide timely and full maintenance. 

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi at a meeting of the UN Security Council on April 15. Credit: Loey Felipe / United Nations Photo, IAEA Imagebank

At a briefing after the meeting, when asked why the IAEA does not point who is responsible for the attacks on the ZNPP, Grossi replied that the IAEA is an international agency of inspectors, and in order to point at a certain side, they must have indisputable evidence that an attack or remnants of ammunition or any other weapon is coming from a certain place, and in this case it is simply impossible. If the IAEA did have this evidence, it would not hide it. 

On 18 April, the ZNPP once more reported that a drone had attacked the training center, clarifying that the drone had been neutralized, without doing damage. The IAEA team heard an explosion, but did not have the opportunity to inspect the location of the incident, owing to potential safety threats. 

“If confirmed, it would be an extremely worrying development. Whoever is behind these incidents, they appear to be ignoring the international community’s repeated calls for maximum military restraint,” said Grossi. 

On 29 April, a Ukraine‘s Defence Intelligence representative reported that the Russians were using the ZNPP territory to launch drones to the Nikopol district, exploiting the fact that in a 1.5-km zone around the ZNPP the Ukrainian army is forbidden to return fire. (Information on this was also submitted to the IAEA by the Ukrainian Permanent Representative at international organizations in Vienna). 

According to data from the intelligence service, the launch pads are located by reactor 6 and the staff training center. The ZNPP cooling pond area is also used for these purposes, and for this reason since November 2023 members of the IAEA mission at the ZNPP have not been given access to the isolation gates of the pond. 

Some of the Russian drones in the region of the ZNPP are disarmed by radio-electric combat systems by the Ukrainian army. Drones lose their guidance and fall either on to the plant territory or into the Dnipro water reservoir. 

Commenting on these reports, Grossi said that IAEA experts at the ZNPP had not seen any evidence of drones being launched, or the presence of launching pads, within the site perimeter. 

The IAEA team continues to hear the sound of military activities almost daily at various distances from the plant, which is mentioned in every IAEA report. This includes rounds of rifle fire, and outgoing artillery fire at various distances from the ZNPP site. On 19 April, an air raid alarm was announced that lasted one and a half hours. During this time staff were instructed to stay indoors. 

On 4 April, Russian firing caused the 330 kV reserve powerline “Zaporizhzhia TPP – Ferosplavna” to be cut off, which provides the ZNPP with power for its own requirements from the Ukrainian power system. Only the single main 750 kV powerline remained in operation. (In March, there were also power cuts at the ZNPP caused by firing on Ukrainian territory.) Connection to the reserve line was restored by Ukrainian energy workers on 6 April

On 13 April, unit 4 was switched to cold shutdown mode. All six ZNPP reactors are now functioning in this mode, for the first time since late 2022. 

“Switching to cold shutdown is a positive step for nuclear safety and security, although one that is overshadowed by the great military dangers facing the plant,” Grossi said. In cold shutdown, in case the heat removal is interrupted, there is an additional response margin of several days before the cooling of the nuclear fuel in the reactor might be challenged. The reactor also needs less cooling water than in hot shutdown. 

According to IAEA’s information, 11 groundwater wells (from which water is pumped into sprinkler ponds) provide sufficient water to cool the six shutdown reactors and spent fuel, but not enough to maintain water supplies to the ZNPP cooling pond. At present, the cooling pond is supplied with water from the sprinkler ponds and the ZTPP discharge channel. 

On 16 April the 18th IAEA expert group arrived at the ZNPP. The new group will focus its attention on maintenance conducted at the plant. 

The IAEA team discussed with ZNPP representatives the maintenance activities planned for 2024 and later. Work was carried out to maintain transformers of unit 1 and some of the safety systems of unit 2, and scheduled for completion by the end of April. 

Following this, it is planned to continue work which was postponed in March. At unit 1, work on equipment maintenance is planned to be continued in mid-May and completed by mid-year, followed by working on unit 6 for three months, and then on unit 2 for six months. Modernization of the plant’s fire safety system is also planned. 

On 1 April, Vladislav Isaev was appointed general director of the Zaporizhzhia NPP Federal State Unitary Enterprise (ZNPP FSUE). The ZNPP telegram channel published some clarification about this appointment, recalling that ZNPP is classified as Russian property through the ZNPP FSUE. At the same time the right to operate the plant was transferred in October 2022 to a separate Zaporizhzhia NPP Operating Organization, where Oleg Romanenko, former chief engineer of Russia’s Balakov NPP, is general director. Yury Chernichuk is the first deputy head of this organization, and the director of the ZNPP. 

On 9 April, Sergey Kiriyenko, first deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, held a meeting at the ZNPP on issues of the current state of the ZNPP and its satellite town Enerhodar (the previous visit was on 29 December 2023). 

On 10 April, the ZNPP was visited by the heads of Rostekhnadzor (the Russian service for environmental, technological and nuclear inspection), where a work meeting was held concerning the safe operation of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. It was reported that work is being carried out at the ZNPP for preparing and extending operation periods of ZNPP units, and certifying staff. 

We know in which period and for which unit the operating organization will apply to us to receive a license. The ZNPP Operation Organization is already preparing a document package. All necessary measures under the current legislation of the Russian Federation and as part of IAEA recommendations are being implemented in full. We are also working on realizing attestation and issuing permits to operating staff,” said Rostekhnadzor head Alexander Trembitsky. 

Rostekhnadzor at Zaporizhzhia NPP. Credit:

On 24 April, the ZNPP director appointed by the Russian Federation Yury Chernichuk met with Trembitsky again (this time at Rostekhnadzor), and discussed issues connected with the current state of ZNPP and ensuring safety during drone attacks, and also switching the reactor of unit 4 to cold shutdown mode. 

On 25 April, the head of the Government of the Russian Federation Mikhail Mishustin and the head of Rosatom Alexey Likhachev held a meeting discussing among other things the activity of Rosatom in the occupied regions (the environmental agenda, electricity deliveries), and also ensuring the safety of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Likhachev noted that around 20 billion rubles had been spent on ZNPP safety and Enerhodar infrastructure, and another 90 billion rubles in the budget plans of 2024-2026. 

Information about walkdowns carried out by the IAEA team and described in IAEA updates in April and information circulars of the permanent representative of the RF in Vienna (this information is given in italics) is given below. 

IAEA reports note that access is still not granted to all sections of the site, especially the western parts of turbine halls, the isolation gate of the cooling pond and the ZTPP 330 kV open switchyard. 

29 March – 03 April (Update 219, INFCIRC/1199

Unit № 1: Sumps for the emergency core cooling system. In one of the sump intakes experts noticed something resembling crystallized boric acid. Although there may be leaks from the primary coolant circuit where borated water is used, an operative investigation, repair and clean-up are vital for preventing potential damage to any system important for nuclear safety. 

Unit № 4: reactor building where the chemical analysis laboratory and safety system rooms were examined (leaks or traces of boric acid were not detected). 

Unit № 6: turbine hall (inspectors were not granted access to the western part of the turbine hall), reactor hall (safety systems, cooling pumps of the spent fuel pond)

– ZNPP inlet and discharge channels, where experts also examined the cooling towers and their pump station. Access was not provided to the cooling pond isolation gate (experts have been unable to examine this gate since November 2023). 

750 kV open switchyard. 

Fresh fuel storages of special buildings 1 and 2. 

04–11 April (Update 222, INFCIRC/1201

Units № 1–6: main control rooms. 

Unit № 2: containment, electric safety rooms, thermal instrumentation and measurement workshops, turbine hall. Access was not provided to some parts of the turbine hall. 

– Off-site radiation monitoring laboratory. 

– Radioactive waste storage facility. Access was closed to some parts of the facility. 

12–18 April (Update 224

– Walkdown within the site perimeter, no heavy weapons were found in the areas visited. 

Unit № 2: reactor building and containment (observed a routine swap of the cooling pumps for its spent fuel pool). 

19–25 April (Update 225, INFCIRC/1203 described as 14–19 April

Unit № 3: reactor building (reactor section, containment) and safety systems rooms (observed the status of the main coolant pumps, steam generators, and also one low-pressure core cooling pump and one spent fuel pool cooling pump), and the pumping station (according to experts’ observations, the equipment appeared to be well-maintained). 

Unit № 5: turbine building, areas on three levels of the building were inspected, but experts were not permitted into the western parts of the building. 

Unit № 6: back-up control room

Facilities of chemical workshop in the joint auxiliary building

– Dry spent fuel storage: the state of spent fuel casks was inspected, nothing unusual was noted, including the integrity of seals on the casks. 

26 April — 3 May (Update 226, INFCIRC/1206 described as 21–26 April

Unit № 1: reactor building and safety system rooms (operation of cooling pumps for the reactor and spent fuel pool was observed. The team observed preparatory works for scheduled maintenance of safety system heat exchangers), turbine hall, access was not granted to the western side. 

Unit № 2: turbine hall, access to the western side was not granted. 

Unit № 4: reactor hall, containment. 

Unit № 5: reactor building and safety systems rooms (experts observed the operation of cooling pumps of the reactor and holding pool) 

– 750 kV open switchyard (experts were informed that owing to military operations, no work was planned to restore connection of other lines to the plant, apart from the Dniprovska line currently operating). Access to the 330 kV open switchyard of the ZTPP was not granted. 

Cooling pond and waterworks facilities (experts confirmed the integrity of the ZTPP discharge channel isolation gate). Access was not granted to the isolation gates of the cooling pond. 

Zaporizhzhia NPP. Credit: Energoatom

Commentary by Bellona:

«The situation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP is not changing, and will not realistically change until there is a solution to the military and political problems arising from Russia’s war against Ukraine. As Russia is at present the “nominal owner” of the ZNPP, the town of Enerhodar and the territory around these sites, it faces a number of issues which it is trying to solve publicly (even conducting publicity campaigns) and non-publicly.

These are primarily technical, technological and organizational tasks to ensure that Rosatom does not cause any radiation or nuclear incidents. This is why all units have been switched to cold shutdown mode, water supply systems for cooling are functioning stably, and the minimum amount of work is being carried out for routine maintenance of systems and equipment of nuclear units. Additionally, control and inspection of nuclear and radioactive material storage facilities are insured. All of these preventive measures so far ensure a stable radiation state at the ZNPP within the current norms, which even Ukraine’s Energoatom recognizes.

Secondly, Russia is trying to solve staff issues at the ZNPP. Primarily, it is attempting to use its own specialists from Russian NPPs, and also various “soft” (and in the past not so “soft”) methods to bring in Ukrainian workers living in Enerhodar. This is why considerable funds are spent on maintaining infrastructure at Enerhodar, which Likhachev mentioned at the meeting with Mishustin.

The restrictions that IAEA inspectors face in walkdowns of unit rooms are still cause for concern, including among the international community. However, the only probable explanation for this is that these rooms contain military equipment and weapons, which are not even the responsibility of Rosatom, but rather of military structures which would rather not communicate with IAEA inspectors at all. Their explanation is simple: we ensure safety, and this is an end of the discussion.

Evidently, this situation will continue until the end of the war. At the same time, Russia demands at international forums for the IAEA to recognize and condemn Ukraine for drone attacks into regions of the ZNPP territory, while Ukraine accuses Russia of targeted provocations.

The IAEA’s position does not change: we do not carry out investigations, so we cannot say anything; politics and nuclear energy are completely separate matters; both sides must fulfill the five concrete principles of the IAEA to prevent a nuclear accident and ensure the integrity of the plant.

This endless dialogue will continue, and the only way to stop this perilous situation is to end the war and return everything to the way it»

Nuclear construction sites in Ukraine ↑

On April 2, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved the bill “On еру Location, Design and Construction of Power Units 3 and 4 of the Khmelnytsky NPP,” which determines the locations of the power units, the number of reactors, their types and general characteristics, as well as general requirements for design and construction. The bill was submitted to the Ukrainian parliament for consideration. It is noted that the project will be implemented at Energoatom’s expense with possible use of loans, without using funds from Ukrainian state budget. 

In March, Energoatom head Petro Kotin said that Ukraine hopes to sign an agreement with Bulgaria in June for the purchase of two VVER-1000 nuclear reactors. By this time, it is planned to finish preparatory work on Unit 3 of the KhNPP and prepare it for equipment assembly. Westinghouse will provide some assistance to Energoatom in construction of these units. 

Satellite image of the Khmelnitsky NPP units. Source: Google Maps Satellite

On April 11, the first concrete cube of Khmelnytsky NPP unit 5 was laid (concreting of the drainage channel to ensure dam stability and construction of power unit infrastructure); this unit will be built using Westinghouse AP1000 technology. The ceremony was attended by Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko, US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink, Energoatom head Petro Kotin and Westinghouse Electric Company Executive Director Patrick Fragman. Previously, Energoatom signed a contract for the purchase of equipment for Unit 5 of the KhNPP with Westinghouse in December 2023. 

On April 4, on Energoatom’s initiative, public hearings were held in Yuzhnoukrainsk to select a site for the construction of the Technological Complex for the manufacture of fuel assemblies for NPP power units. This project will use Westinghouse technology. The production process at the future complex provides for mechanical assembly of nuclear fuel for VVER-1000 type reactors from ready-made components. Some of them are already being produced at Energoatom facilities. The complex is planned to be launched in 2026. According to materials from the hearing, development of the construction project has not yet begun. Energoatom is currently working on the first stage of the project, a feasibility study. 

Issues of construction, ecology, financing, economic benefits and social preferences were discussed at the hearings. The hearings concluded with construction being approved. 

Presentation of the Technological Complex for the manufacture of fuel assemblies at public hearings in Yuzhnoukrainsk. Source: Energoatom

On April 12, Energoatom and Holtec International signed a general agreement on the transfer of Holtec’s technology for the manufacture of SMR components to Energoatom in Ukraine. The agreement also provides for establishing a Ukrainian plant to produce components for the dry spent fuel storage, which have so far been produced in the US. 

This agreement aims to facilitate the use of Holtec SMR-300 advanced nuclear reactors in Ukraine under the Cooperation Agreement of April 21, 2023, and also to maintain the unimpeded operation of reactors through the use of the spent nuclear fuel storage facility. 

Commentary by Bellona:

«The new construction of nuclear facilities in Ukraine aroused interest and questions not only from Bellona, but also from the Ukrainian public. First of all, there was the question of “who will pay the piper”. The country is ravaged by a war with no end in sight, there is not even enough money to pay pensions, not to mention other essentials such as medicine and social needs, and many people have lost their property. And suddenly, a multi-billion-dollar nuclear construction project is planned and begins to be implemented, which requires financial, human and other comprehensive resources. 

The heads of Energoatom say that it is not being financed from the budget, but with Energoatom’s funds. Then the question arises again: is Ukraine’s nuclear power industry privately owned, or what? And is everything that Energoatom earns not state funds? 

Perhaps US and other private foreign companies may provide money to build the new facilities. But besides money, construction needs people (high-class specialists), construction materials, logistics, transportation, etc. And perhaps Energoatom should be reminded that to create barriers to defend Kharkiv and other eastern cities which are currently under threat of being captured by the Russians, builders and building materials are also required (concrete, metal, construction equipment, etc.). 

The situation with Ukraine’s energy system is well-known. Thermal, hydro and other energy capacities, as well as energy nodes and transmission lines, have either already been partially destroyed or are in the crossfire of Russian missiles. Thus, the question arises as to what should be done in this situation to ensure that the country has a sufficient supply of energy. 

We suspect that many people will be opposed to the option of building new nuclear units and facilities to supply them. Therefore, the Ministry of Energy and Energoatom should explain the plans for nuclear construction more clearly. In addition, there is no guarantee that existing and uncompleted nuclear sites (e.g. the South Ukrainian NPP) will not repeat the fate of the ZNPP, or worse, be destroyed if the military and political situation gets out of control. 

Bellona believes that the nuclear construction projects that Energoatom are discussing today are a very serious issue, in need of further clarification that takes into account the real military and political, energy and economic situation. Even if the war were to end tomorrow, the energy from existing NPPs and other plants would be enough to rebuild the country for the first ten years, and only after that should decisions be made, based on the situation»

International nuclear events and their connection with Russia 

Westinghouse fuel delivered to Kozloduy NPP in Bulgaria ↑

On 20 April, the first consignment of fresh nuclear fuel produced by the US company Westinghouse (RWFA) for unit 5 of the Kozloduy NPP was delivered to the plant, and on 22 April the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency issued a license for its use. The license stipulates the gradual transition to the new fuel, which will take four years. According to Bulgarian energy minister Vladimir Malinov, the first 43 cassettes with Westinghouse nuclear fuel will be loaded at the end of May. 

Bulgarian Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev stated that diversification of suppliers is a lengthy process, and that talks with Westinghouse began back in 2009-2010. The ten-year contract for delivery of fuel for unit 5 was signed in December 2022. This was followed by a contract signed for delivering fuel for unit 6 with Framatome. Deliveries are planned to start in 2025. 

Kozloduy NPP. Credit: Kozloduy NPP

Commentary by Bellona:

«Bulgaria is the first EU country to use Russian nuclear fuel that has switched to loading alternative fuel into its VVER reactors since the war in Ukraine began. So far, fuel has been loaded into unit 5. By the end of the year the first fuel assemblies from Westinghouse should also be delivered to the Czech Republic for the Dukovany NPP, and then for the Temelin NPP. From 2027, the transition from Russian to alternative fuel may begin in Slovakia and Finland »

US passes law banning import of Russian uranium ↑

On 30 April, the US Senate approved a law banning the import of low enriched uranium (LEU) manufactured in Russia or by Russian companies, and also LEU which was substituted for prohibited uranium or obtained by other means to bypass the ban. The law was signed by US President Joe Biden on 13 May and enters into effect 90 days later. It will be effective until 2040. 

Transportation of containers with enriched uranium. Source: Techsnabexport (Tenex)

The House of Representatives approved this bill in December 2023. According to assessments of the US Energy Ministry, US communal enterprises will have access to LEU for approximately three more years, from existing supplies or under contracts that have already been signed. The phaseout of Russian uranium will be gradual, and exceptions are envisaged allowing uranium to be imported from Russia in the absence of alternative deliveries for American reactors, or if deliveries meet US national interests. From 1 January 2028, import will be banned completely. In recent years, the import of Russian enriched uranium has covered 20-25% of US requirements. 

Passing this law will also make it possible to unblock USD 2.7 billion to support domestic uranium industry, provided by Congress to the US Energy Ministry earlier in March, on condition of restrictions being introduced on the import of Russian uranium. 

Import of Russian enriched uranium to the US. Infographic by Bellona based on data from the Comtrade service.

At the same time, according to calculations by RIA Novosti based on data from national statistic services, the US was the main purchaser of Russian uranium last year. In 2023 Russia sold enriched uranium to the following countries: 

– USA – 702 tons (a growth of 19% by year) 

– China – 457 tons (decrease of 32%) 

– South Korea – 243 tons (1.8 times more than the previous year); 

– France – 223 tons (decrease of 29%): 

– Kazakhstan – 168 tons (over 5 times more than the previous year); 

– Germany – 30 tons; 

– Brazil – 27 tons. 

Bellona discussed the increase in purchases of uranium and nuclear fuel in the USA and EU in March. 

Commentary by Bellona:

«The USA is the largest purchaser of enriched uranium from the Russian Federation, accounting for up to 50% of all Russian sales of enrichment services (up to 60% in 2023). In cash terms this is around USD 1 billion of the approximately USD 2 billion that Rosatom earns on the foreign market of enriched uranium products. 

In the past years, the EU has been purchasing less enriched uranium products than the USA, around USD 500 million per year. But the EU also purchases a comparable volume of enriched uranium in the form of nuclear fuel, which is delivered for VVER reactors of Soviet design in Eastern Europe (we wrote in more detail about the import of nuclear fuel to the EU here). But the EU is also phasing out this fuel as well, even without official sanctions. Thus, in the next five years Rosatom may lose up to half of its foreign turnover in the nuclear fuel sphere, which now amounts to around USD 3-4 billion. 

Of course, Rosatom may partially compensate for losses on the western market with future supplies of fuel to other countries where it is currently building NPPs – in Turkey, India, China, Egypt, Bangladesh etc. But 1-2 billion dollars are hardly a sum that will not be missed. Additionally, Rosatom previously planned to expand operations in the West, which is still the largest nuclear market – with fuel for NPPs of western design, and with work on the market for decommissioning NPPs, and in many other areas where Rosatom involvement is now completely out of the question. 

At the same time, the main potential purchaser, China, is capable of enriching uranium itself, and is attempting to become increasingly independent in the nuclear sphere, even if it initially took technologies from abroad. Including from Russia, where it took technologies for uranium enrichment. Over the last 20 years, China has built more NPPs domestically than all other countries put together during this period – over 50 units. And now it is building NPPS of its own design, and intends to enter the export market with them. So, it is still unclear whether China will be a partner or a rival for Rosatom in future. Nevertheless, Rosatom does not have the option of not working with China, so a shift towards China is already taking place in all aspects. And over the last two years China has increased its volume of purchases of Russian enriched uranium, which in physical volume now exceeds EU purchases. However, Russia sells the uranium to China at a cheaper rate than to the West. 

Meanwhile, in other segments of the world nuclear market, mainly in construction of NPPs and other fields, including non-nuclear ones, Rosatom’s foreign turnover is at least twice as large as in the fuel cycle section. And it continues to grow. In 2023, Rosatom’s foreign turnover already exceeded USD 16 billion, with so-called friendly countries accounting for over USD 12 billion, according to Rosatom head Likhachev. The current situation is radically different from what it was 10-15 years ago, when uranium deliveries to the USA were one of the largest components of Rosatom export. 

Therefore, we should not expect that sanctions will cause a drastic drop in Rosatom’s foreign activity. While the situation is not critical for Rosatom, it is still unpleasant, as it means an end to cooperation with the most important long-standing partner in the fuel sphere. The restrictions will in fact have much more significance for the western nuclear industry, which will gain a serious stimulus for consolidation and development»

For more information on this topic, see the article published on the Bellona website. 

G7 ministerial meeting on climate, energy and environment ↑

On 28-30 April, a G7 ministerial meeting on climate, energy and the environment was held in Turin, Italy. Regarding nuclear energy, a communique published after the meeting notes that G7 leaders still adhere to reducing dependence on Russian production connected with the civil nuclear industry, and aiding countries aiming to diversify their fuel deliveries and reduce dependence connected with spare parts, components and services. In this connection, the countries undertake to support efforts to increase the stability of nuclear supply chains, continue cooperation in building a reliable supply chain within G7 countries and the Sapporo 5 work group for nuclear energy. 

The document condemns the capture, control, and militarization of the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia NPP, which creates risks for nuclear safety and security of the wider international community. It is important that all countries observe standards of safety, guarantees and non-proliferation, and the important role of the IAEA was emphasized in this field. 

The communique mentions the declaration proclaimed at COP28 to triple world nuclear capacities by 2050, and recognizes that for countries which decide to use nuclear power, it will play a role in reducing dependence on fossil fuel, support the transition to zero emissions and ensure energy safety. 

At an event held at the same time as the ministerial meeting, representatives of the nuclear industry made a statement calling on the governments of G7 countries to develop precise plans to develop nuclear power, which would allow them to attain the goals set and demonstrate adherence to nuclear power, giving clear signals to markets and investors. 

According to the statement, governments may assist in making maximum effective use of existing NPPs, including by extending the reactor operation periods, and relaunching shut-down reactors. They should also accelerate the deployment of new nuclear facilities based on tested constructions, and accelerate the development, demonstration, and introduction of new nuclear technologies, including new large nuclear reactors, and also small modular rectors and advanced modular reactors. 

The statement was presented by the heads of Associazone Italiana Nucleare, the Canada Nuclear Association, Groupement des Industriels Français de l’Énergie Nucléaire (Gifen), Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Nuclear Industry Association, Nucleareurope and the World Nuclear Association. 

At a joint press conference on the results of the ministerial meeting, the Italian ministry for the environment and energy security Gilberto Pichetto Fratin announced: “As far as nuclear power is concerned… our seven countries stated in the communique that we will work together to assist further studies and provide conditions for assisting the use of nuclear energy, which is a pure form of energy.” 

G7 Ministerial Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment. Source:

Kathryn Haff, head of the Nuclear Energy Department of the US Energy Ministry (she left this position on 3 May), notes that in the year since the founding of the Sapporo 5 alliance, whose member countries collectively make up half of the world’s uranium conversion and enrichment capacity, the group has achieved certain progress in creating a global civil nuclear fuel supply chain free from Russian influence. 

Discussing the role of the US, Haff mentioned the demonstration project to produce HALEU by Centrus, plans to award contacts in summer for enrichment and deconversion services, the USD 2.7 billion allocated to the ministry to further build out a secure supply chain for low-enriched uranium, including HALEU. 

French Orano approved investments of USD 1.8 billion to increase the enrichment capacity of a facility in southern France by 30% by 2028. Japan has committed to increase its enrichment from 75 tons per year to 450 SWU per year by 2027. The UK has announced investments of 300 million pounds to launch Europe’s first domestic HALEU program, and Canada continues to mine and convert uranium to support a safe and secure supply chain.

Commentary by Bellona:

«A change of fuel suppliers for VVER reactors in Europe and phasing out purchases of enriched uranium from Russia to the US leave room for maneuvering and possibilities for continuing cooperation in the years to come. However, the growth of investments and economic stimulation of domestic nuclear production, especially with the declared intentions to develop the industry in the West, may have much more influence on consolidating the western nuclear sector and its independence from Russia, as it will create market mechanisms and stimulus for the sector. Time will show whether these investments will be justified, and whether they will make serious changes to the world nuclear market. 

The activity of western countries in their plans to reduce dependence from Russia in various fields, including nuclear power, has been realized in various formats over the last two years. Owing to difficulties of a technological and regulatory nature, they rarely take the form of drastic ruptures in existing agreements and official sanctions. But it should be noted that western countries’ efforts have already led to serious shifts that lay the foundation for a change in the nuclear market for years ahead, especially in the nuclear fuel sphere»

Rosatom German asset declares bankruptcy ↑

Nukem Technologies Engineering Services GmbH (a subsidiary of NUKEM Technologies GmbH) in Germany has filed insolvency in self-administration and is restructuring the debtor in order to be able to preserve the company. 

Before 2009, NUKEM Technologies GmbH was a subsidiary of NUKEM GmbH, specializing in providing services in the field of radioactive waste and spent fuel treatment, and also decommissioning nuclear and radiation hazardous facilities (power, research, industrial and ship reactors, nuclear-fuel cycle enterprises). In 2009, NUKEM Technologies GmbH was taken over by Atomstroiexport and in 2019 transferred to the TVEL fuel company, which became an industry integrator of Rosatom for decommissioning of nuclear and radiation hazardous facilities. 

Since 2 April, Nukem has been under creditor protection after the Aschaffenburg District Court approved the company’s application for temporary insolvency under self-administration. The company announced that its problems were caused by the deteriorating business environment due to the ownership structure following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, and the recent unexpected failure of the merger and absorption process. Despite significant market interest, the sale could not be completed successfully, primarily because of the legal uncertainty surrounding Russian ownership and the legality of such an acquisition. The bankruptcy procedure separates the company from the Russian ownership structure, and opens up new opportunities for interested parties to participate as investors without fear of potential legal consequences. 

Commentary by Bellona:

«Rosatom has long sought options to gain a foothold in new segments of the Western nuclear market, which remains the world’s largest but has stagnated in recent decades. The lack of large demand for the construction of new nuclear power units along with political motives sharply reduced Rosatom’s opportunities to build new NPPs in the West. Therefore, Rosatom’s main involvement in this market has always been in the nuclear fuel sector. 

At the same time, it is obvious that the aging nuclear reactors in Europe and other countries opens up the prospects of a huge market for decommissioning nuclear facilities. Therefore, buying a European asset in this sphere was an obvious and familiar step for Rosatom as part of its strategy to expand its markets of presence. However, as we can now see, the war in Ukraine is hitting all aspects of Russian state companies’ operations abroad, including Rosatom’s prospects for working on the European decommissioning market»

Events in the Russian nuclear sector and in Rosatom’s projects abroad 

Bangladesh plans to build another two NPP units ↑

On 2 April, Rosatom head Aleksey Likhachev made a working visit to Bangladesh, where he met with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and discussed issues of Russian-Bangladesh cooperation in using nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Hasina mentioned that her government was interested in building other NPP units at the Rooppur site, if possible. “We need your support in constructing new power units after completion of the ongoing project,” said Hasina. According to Likhachev, Bangladesh is interested in building another two power units. 

Working meeting of Rosatom head Alexey Likhachev with Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. Source: ASE

At present, two power units with VVER-1200 reactors are being built at the Rooppur site. The physical launch of the first power unit is planned for December this year. There was also discussion at the meeting of “formalities” to return spent nuclear fuel of the first and second units of the Rooppur NPP to Russia. 

Commentary by Bellona:

«The difficult geopolitical situation for Russia and Rosatom means that in the coming years, contracts for building Russian NPPs will only appear in countries where Rosatom is already building NPPs. As of mid-2024, Rosatom was building 22 nuclear power units worldwide, of which 19 are outside Russia – in Turkey, Egypt, India, China, Bangladesh and Iran. 

As we analyzed in detail in a separate article, the number of foreign construction projects of Rosatom will probably drop to 14-18 by 2030. The most likely locations for new construction are the second NPP in Turkey (the Sinop NPP), several more units in India and possibly in China, and also the units of the Paks II NPP in Hungary, which are already approaching the stage of pouring the first concrete. 

If the current project for the Rooppur NPP is successful, Bangladesh may also continue cooperation with Russia in the nuclear sphere. Countries where Rosatom is currently not carrying out NPP construction, but where it has the chance of receiving contracts in the coming years, include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Armenia»

Rosatom’s projects abroad in brief ↑

Akkuyu NPP, Turkey. On 9 April, the commissioning phase on unit 1 of the Akkuyu NPP began. Rosatom head Aleksey Likhachev made a working visit to the NPP construction site and examined the course of work. “On the ‘nuclear island’ work is going according to plan,” he said. “This year we will thoroughly check all systems including the primary circuit, conduct hydraulic tests, and load fuel simulators directly into the reactor.” 

Installation of the cantilever truss, one of the three parts of the core catcher, was completed on unit 4 on 2 April. 

On April 19, a set of high-pressure preheaters for Unit 1 was dispatched, and on April 22, a set of steam generators for Unit 3. 

Tianwan NPP, China. The upper part of the inner containment dome was installed in final position in the reactor building of unit 8 on 15 April. “Tianwan NPP Unit 8 is being constructed strictly in accordance with the schedule. The Russian and the Chinese specialists are jointly implementing this project – the Russian Party being responsible for design and supply of documentation and equipment for the nuclear island, or designing supervision, installation and adjustment supervision during the construction of Units 7 and 8, and the Chinese Customer – for civil and erection, commissioning and other works during the Units construction,” said the vice president for projects in China and prospective projects of Atomstroiexport Alexey Bannik. 

Paks-2 NPP, Hungary. On 26 April, forging of blanks for the reactor vessel for unit 1 of Paks-2 NPP began at the factory of the Rosatom machine-building division AEM-Spetsstal in the presence of a Russian and Hungarian delegation. 

Part for the VVER-1200 reactor body. Source: Strana Rosatom

On 11 April, Rosatom reported that specialists of TSNIITMASH (the machine-building division of Rosatom) had prepared and dispatched a set of viscoelastic dampers for the Kudankulam NPP in India, and the Xiudapu NPP and Tianwan NPP in China. It was noted that this equipment was manufactured in Russia for the first time. 

Separate extended commentary on a significant event of the month

The federal targeted program “Ensuring nuclear and radiation safety”. Results for 2023 

On 1 April, the 2023 report was published on realization of the program “Ensuring nuclear and radiation safety” (hereinafter the Program). The Bellona nuclear group believes that this report deserves attention. The present military-political and economic situation in which Rosatom also plays an active role adds interest to how events of the Program are implemented.

Bellona provides a survey of this event in the form of a separate extended comment by the head of the Bellona nuclear project Alexander Nikitin: 

The main goal of the Programs, the first from 2008 to 2015 and the second from 2016-2020 and up to 2035 inclusive) are solving problems of eliminating the Soviet nuclear legacy. The Program documents state that the result of eliminating the nuclear legacy should be removing the threat of radiation risks from Soviet nuclear project facilities which have not yet been eliminated and rendered safe. 

The war made it necessary to adjust budgets and timeframes for Program events which were planned in peacetime. 

In mid-2022, decisions were made to extend the timeframe for implementing the second Program to 2035, although previously it was planned to complete the Program in 2030. Undoubtedly, this decision was made because of the outbreak of war, as the quantity and condition of Soviet legacy facilities have not changed. 

Rosatom officials responsible for implementing the Program admit that Program measures have been delayed because of external factors and reductions in budget financing allocated for the next three years. Additionally, they recognize that the political and economic situation negatively impacts construction of facilities planned in the Program, as when planning took place, it was envisaged that a considerable percentage of equipment or components would be manufactured abroad, while now extensive import substitution is required. 

The head of the Rosatom division “Environmental solutions” complains that the need for import substitution in building new infrastructural objects and a number of other external factors have caused delays in implementing projects. 

In the report indicators for 2023, there is no data on volumes of financing for each key area of the Program, and it is merely stated that the overall volume of financing came to around 49 billion rubles (17.6 billion rubles from the federal budget and 31.3 billion from extra-budgetary sources, i.e. mainly from Rosatom’s budget). The latest data on actual volumes of financing was only given for the state of affairs as of 1 January 2023. Therefore, the indicators make it impossible to determine the funds spent in 2023 for putting radioactive waste burial sites into operation, removing spent nuclear fuel (SNF), processing SNF, decommissioning hazardous nuclear and radioactive facilities, restoring contaminated territories etc. 

Thus, we can already see today that “military restrictions” on finances, equipment and technologies undoubtedly have an effect on the timely and proper implementation of Program events, and will continue to do so. The results of Program implementation and the passage of time will show how events develop further. 

We should also note another important factor that is not entirely clear. The Program reports do not contain any data on the results of eliminating the nuclear legacy in the Arctic (which is particularly important for Bellona), apart from information that the dismantlement of the Lepse nuclear service vessel has been completed. 

Perhaps the number of spent nuclear fuel assemblies removed from Andreeva Bay was included in the indicator “Removal of spent nuclear fuel assemblies to central storage”, together with SNFA from experimental reactors or NPPs. At any rate, from the report for 2023 it is not clear where the 7,487 spent nuclear fuel assemblies were removed from, which are indicated on the graph of target indicators

The report for 2023 contains no data on such objects of the nuclear legacy as sunk and submerged nuclear and radiation hazardous facilities, the Saida Bay, Gremikha and other Arctic facilities, and does not even mention them. Perhaps this is because the main financing of works on Arctic nuclear legacy sites facilities came from the Program “Development of the nuclear energy complex” and also from foreign sources which ceased financing Russian projects after the outbreak of war. 

Summarizing the brief survey of Rosatom’s report on realization of the Program for 2023, we should note that the report is rather formal and not particularly specific, and more promotional than professional. From the data in the report, interested experts in this field (and even public campaigners) cannot understand and evaluate the real results of implementing the Program for 2023. 

The authors did their best not to write anything specific, but rather to fill the report with large photographs and general phrases about the history of the sites where work was carried out. There is no gradation of sites by importance based on their level of hazard, no full picture of how the Program was organized and implemented, and it is unclear why and according to what categories a certain facility was selected for work. 

Judging from events which were carried out, activity under the Program was directed primarily towards cleaning up radiation-contaminated sites. But at the same time, there is no description or current characteristics for these sites or for works carried out in 2023. Without these descriptions it is impossible to assess the volume, resource use, public significance and prospects of advancing the entire Program to its final goals. 

The report contains rather limited information about works on sites where operations were carried out for treating SNF, including removing SNF from storage facilities of decommissioned NPP units, although in the course of the year (judging from the diagram), a considerable number of SNFA (7,487) were removed to the main storage facility and Mayak. It is not quite clear, for example, what caused a drastic increase in processing SNF, which doubled (to 162.7 tons) in comparison with 2021 (80 tons). 

It is especially worrying that there are no official reports on work on Arctic and Far East maritime nuclear legacy facilities. Many sections of the state program “Developing the nuclear energy complex”, including “Implementation of state obligations for treating federal radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, converting nuclear legacy sites to a nuclear and radiation safe state…” are classified, with no annual reports published on them. For this reason, at present the volume of financing is practically unknown, as are the results of work and plans for realizing projects at nuclear legacy sites in the Arctic. 

The last factor in the report that draws attention is that in 2023 Rosatom allocated almost twice as much money from its own funds than in previous years. The reason for this, and where Rosatom got this money from, is a separate issue requiring further study.