Russia will stick to its plans to construct nuclear power plants in Russia and abroad, Kirill Komarov Rosatom deputy director general, international business and development, told journalists during the Atomexpo forum in Moscow on 5 June 2012. “There is no country in which we will not be interested to build a plant,” he said.

Komarov went on to reveal that Russia is considering building nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom, which has ‘one of the most ambitious programme in Europe.’

“We are monitoring the development of the British programme closely and we will probably take part,” Komarov told journalists during a press conference.

Rosatom is poised for the British market as a company that can provide technology as well as the funds, Komarov said. However, he noted that speculation of Rosatom joining any particular project, namely by taking over the Horizon joint venture, which German utilities RWE and E.ON put up for sale in March 2012, is ‘premature.’

Komarov pointed out that Rosatom would still be able to enter the UK nuclear market without taking over Horizon’s projects. Eight sites have been identified by the UK government as potentially deployable for new nuclear build prior to 2025, potentially leaving Bradwell, Hartlepool and Heysham available for new entrants.

“To progress we need to do a lot of preliminary work, including licensing of the reactor design,” Komarov said.

Rosatom hopes to licence the VVER design through the UK generic design assessment (GDA) ‘within five years,’ Jukka Laaksonen, Rusatom Overseas vice president, reportedly said during a separate presentation at the conference.

The UK is just one potential market for Russian nuclear technology. By 2030, Rosatom aims to have 30 nuclear units under construction abroad; up to 14 GW of new capacity is projected from build-own-operate projects by 2030. The BOO model, in which the Russian company constructs and runs the plant, selling the electricity generated to a local utility, is proposed for Akkuyu in Turkey and is being considered for projects in Jordan, Hungary, Slovakia and South Africa. The Atomexpo forum saw Rosatom sign cooperation agreements with prospective nuclear countries: Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nigeria and South Africa.

Rosatom and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) signed an agreement to “elaborate joint business projects in areas such as the production and marketing of medical isotopes, nuclear fuel fabrication and the production of power equipment.” South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan 2010 includes the construction of nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 9.6 GW by 2030. Nesca and Rusatom Overseas also announced plans to develop cooperation in NPP construction projects in third-party countries.

Other potential new markets for Russian technology include Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. There are also opportunities in countries that currently have Russia-designed reactors in operation, including Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, China, Hungary, India and Ukraine.

Common goals

Many nuclear power plant operators have expressed the same ideas, approaches, targets and goals following the Fukushima accident; this should encourage collaboration in severe accident research, Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy general director of Rosenergoatom (REA) said 4 June.

“Operators have expressed common findings and are interested in the same things to ensure safe operation,” Asmolov said. He noted, in particular, similarities between the issues identified by Rosenergoatom and the French nuclear operator EDF following post-Fukushima stress tests.

Asmolov highlighted two common areas where further research is needed: hydrogen safety systems and containment filtration systems.

“In cases of high concentrations of hydrogen, the ventilation systems that are in operation today are not efficient and it is possible that explosions can take place.”

“People are performing probabilistic risk assessments, but I’m afraid that in this case this is no good,” Asmolov said.

“We need deterministic analysis of this situation. We need to understand directly what can happen in case of such an explosion.”

Asmolov also said improvements need to be made to the systems that filter the releases from the containment. “The currently-operating equipment can cope well with aerosols and molecular iodine. Today we are only starting to attempt to purify the release of organic iodides and this is also very important.”

Research in these areas needs to be conducted collaboratively, Asmolov urged.

“The operators, I believe, need to join the effort to spend common resources to invest in this research.”

“I believe that the responsibility for the future of nuclear power engineering is vested in the nuclear operator and how much it is motivated,” Asmolov said. He stressed, also, that transparency of nuclear power plant operators is key.

Asmolov noted how ‘pragmatic’ the Russian operator has been in its response to Fukushima.

“We decided to buy diesel generators and we did it! They continue to talk,” Asmolov told NEI, referring to nuclear operators in Europe.

By early July 2012, REA had completed a RUB 2.6 billion ($80 million) programme of measures to reduce the consequences of a hypothetical beyond-design-basis accidents. In total, 66 mobile diesel generators, 35 mobile pumping stations and 80 monoblock pumps were supplied to Russian NPPs.

Rosenergoatom also introduced systems for hydrogen control and recombination inside VVER reactor containments, and installed emergency exhaust gas systems in the VVER-1000 reactor designs.

Seismic protection systems have already been installed at most plants; they are in trial operation at Novovoronezh, Kola and Kursk and are due to be installed at Bilibino, Leningrad and Smolensk during 2013-2014. In addition, seismic microzoning data for NPP sites has been refined, qualified analysis of data specified in the design for seismic loads has been conducted and measures have been taken to improve seismic resistance of equipment and plant building structures.

Both generic (VVER-1000 and RBMK) and plant-specific severe accident management guidelines were developed and implemented.

The communication infrastructure between the technical support centres (VNIIAES, OKBM, AEP, NIAEP), the REA crisis centre and nuclear power plants has been modernised, with mobile communication and command posts set up at NPP sites. WANO also decided in April 2012 to establish a regional crisis centre in Moscow.

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This article was first published in the August 2012 issue of Nuclear Engineering International

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