Should Ukraine build new NPP units?

February 22, 2024

I have always shared the opinion that Ukraine will not achieve the goals of energy transition and have sufficient capacities for the economy development without an increase in RES generation, construction of new NPP units and creation of modern manoeuvrable power generation and storage systems.

Ukraine has lost about 16 GW of generation capacities as a result of the Russian aggression. One should also take into account that the service life of most thermal generation facilities has long expired. As the ex-Minister of Energy Ivan Plachkov aptly noted, our energy industry resembles a museum of technologies of the 1960s–1980s, like the Cuban car stock, demonstrating the achievements of the US car-making industry of the pre-revolutionary period.

Today, the UES has no spare capacities, and the outdated TPPs inherited from the USSR are in a critical condition due to wear and tear of assets and destruction by Russian missiles and drones. Hence, the existing generating capacities are not only unable to provide electricity for the future recovery of the economy but also remain more or less reliable for power supply in wartime, when many enterprises lie in ruins. As we know, Ukraine decently survives this winter heating season thanks to the drop in demand, compared to 2021, a warm winter, and electricity imports.

In such a situation, it seems reasonable to use funds for the repair of the existing infrastructure and implementation of decentralized projects that can start generation no later than 12–16 months after the beginning of construction. Such projects include, first of all, construction of SPPs, WPPs, bioenergy facilities and highly manoeuvrable gas generation (gas piston and gas turbine installations).

Instead, the Ministry of Energy stated that the construction of four nuclear units will require more than 20 billion US dollars. In this context, two important questions arise. First, where will NNEGC Energoatom take such money, having a debt of about UAH 17 billion for PSO alone? Second, does it make sense to spend billions of hryvnias every month on a project that will supply electricity no earlier than in five years? 

I have no answer to the first question at all, because I can't imagine that anyone would provide huge loans to NNEGC Energoatom in wartime, and the increase in electricity prices is limited by the low solvency of consumers. The answer to the second question is also obvious: the priority in financing in the conditions of limited financial assistance from partners and the critical situation at the front should be given to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. After all, if the enemy is not stopped, then another question will arise, about the sense of the construction of these nuclear blocks.

As the Ministry of Energy announced, it plans to build four nuclear units using the following reactor types: two of the Russian VVER-1000 design, and two of Westinghouse company — AP-1000. If the use of the AP-1000 reactors looks more or less clear, the choice of the Russian design is more questionable: not so much from the viewpoint of compliance with modern safety and technology standards as in view of even greater dependence on the Russian designers in terms of maintenance and components.

Currently, it seems more expedient for the government to focus on feasibility studies, more thorough selection of the reactor type and construction sites, preparation of technical documentation and legislative basis, rather than on the expenditure of huge funds on construction. The government officials should also ensure true independence of the regulator (SNRIU) from the operator and the concerned ministry and improve its staffing. This should be done in order to proceed with the practical phase of the project implementation immediately after the end of the war, on favourable conditions for Ukraine, without wasting time.

Volodymyr Omelchenko

Director, Energy Programmes

Born in 1967 in Kyiv

Education: Kyiv Politechnic Institute, Department of Chemical Engineering (1992)

Author of over 50 scientific works and op-ed publications. Took part in development and implementation of international energy projects and scientific research in international energy policy


1992 – 1996 — worked in different positions in the mechanical engineering industry

1997 – 1998 — Head Expert of the Division of Oil, Gas and Petroleum Refining Industry of the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine

1998 – 2003 — Naftohaz Ukrayiny National Joint-Stock Company, in Charge of Oil Transportation Section

2004 – 2007 — Chief Consultant at the National Institute of International Security Problems of Ukraine’s NSDC

since February, 2007 — Leading Expert, Razumkov Centre. Director of Energy Programmes since 2013

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