Fennovoima has signed an agreement with Rosatom subsidiary TVEL for the delivery of fuel to Hanhikivi 1 for the first ten years of operation.
The Euratom Supply Agency (ESA) ensures a regular and equitable supply of nuclear fuel. It operates under the European Commission and reviews all fuel supply agreements for nuclear power plants in the EU. The ESA granted official approval for Fennovoima’s fuel contract with TVEL in Spring 2014.
During its operating life the plant will maintain a minimum reserve of nuclear fuel equivalent to two years’ full power operation.
The fuel: reprocessed uranium
The fuel used for Hanhikivi-1 will contain reprocessed uranium. This is recovered from spent nuclear fuel generated at other facilities. Reprocessing reduces the volume of spent nuclear fuel for final disposal.
Hanhikivi-1 will need approximately 25 metric tons – a few truckloads – of nuclear fuel per year. This is a very small amount of fuel for a large power plant. For example, an equivalent coal power plant would use three million metric tons of fuel each year.
The reactor core will be partially reloaded once per year. Spent fuel will be removed and replaced with fresh fuel.
Fuel costs form about 15 percent of the price of nuclear electricity. The price of uranium makes up about one-third of this. Variations in fuel price have a much lower impact on the price of nuclear power than on the price of electricity produced using fossil fuels. For example, if the price of uranium doubled, the price of nuclear electricity would only increase by five percent.
The uranium fuel used in nuclear power plants is manufactured from uranium ore. The largest uranium deposits are in Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada.
The ore extracted from mines requires considerable processing before it can be used as fuel in a light water reactor. The journey of uranium from ore to fuel assemblies has many stages, and often passes through many countries. Finland has no nuclear fuel manufacturing facilities.
Ceramic uranium pellets are stacked inside metal rods that are approximately 1 cm thick and 3–5 meters long. The rods are welded shut at the fuel production plant. Fuel rods are combined into assemblies of 100–300 rods and are then transported to the nuclear power plant.
The reprocessed uranium fuel chosen by Fennovoima can be manufactured in a similar way to fuel from fresh uranium.
Fuel will be delivered to the power plant as complete assemblies. It will be transported by land or sea according to international nuclear safeguards.