Engineering export

14 February 2018

Nuclear Engineering International talks to Valery Igoryevitch Limarenko, Chief Executive Officer at ASE Group of Companies, the engineering division of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

What are the main responsibilities of the ASE Group?

The ASE Group of Companies brings together the leading engineering and design organizations within Rosatom, including ASE EC JSC, Atomstroyexport JSC, Atomenergoproekt JSC, and ATOMPROEKT JSC. ASE EC JSC (formerly NIAEP JSC) is the managing company of ASE Group of Companies. JSC Atomenergoproekt is a general designer of nuclear power plants. ATOMPROEKT JSC was formed from the merger of two St Petersburg-based design institutes the All-Russia Science Research and Design Institute of Power Engineering Technology (VNIPIET) and St Petersburg Atomenergoproekt (SPbAEP).

The division accounts for more than 30% of the global market in NPP construction. It has representatives and operational offices in 15 countries, and almost 80% of the company's order backlog comprises international projects. The main activity of the company is the implementation NPP projects based on 1200 MW generation 3+ VVER reactors in Russia and worldwide. In March 2017, the world's first power unit of this kind was commissioned at Russia’s Novovoronezh-II NPP resulting in a 1.5-fold increase of the total capacity of the Novovoronezh NPP. The unit, which fully complies with the IAEA post-Fukushima safety standards, demonstrated improved technical and economic performance.

How is the generation 3+ NPP different?

It combines innovative and proven reference nuclear power plant technologies with modern security systems. Currently such projects are being implemented in Turkey, Bangladesh, Finland, Hungary, and Belarus. These plants have a nominal electric power of 1200MW, a 60-year lifespan for key equipment, improved parameters of fuel utilization, and application of modern fuel cycles. All of the 3+ generation NPP projects include protection against powerful earthquakes (at least 8 points on the MSK-64 scale), aircraft crashes, external air shock waves, tornadoes, and floods. They include a double containment shell, a fuel melt trap (catcher) in the lower part of the reactor building, and a passive residual heat removal system as part of their improved safety systems.

Russia has NPP construction projects underway in many countries as well as in Russia. How are these progressing?

In Russia, installation work at unit 2 of the Novovoronezh-II NPP (a VVER-1200) is almost complete. Energy start-up of unit 4 at the Rostov NPP (a VVER-1000) took place on 1st February 2018. The first unit of the Belarusian NPP has received deliveries of the main equipment for the primary circuit and installation of the reactor vessel was completed.

The second stage of the Kudankulam NPP in India (unit 3 and 4 – both VVER-1000) has moved to the practical implementation phase. In June, the main construction work was started at the unit 3 site. Contracts for priority design work, working design and delivery of the main equipment for the third stage (units 5 and 6) have been signed. Construction of the second stage of Tianwan NPP in China (units 3 and 4) is underway. On 30th December 2017, unit 3 achieved first power start-up and at unit 4 installation work is nearing completion in preparation for commissioning.

The project for construction of the Rooppur NPP in Bangladesh is now at the practical implementation stage. The construction license was obtained on 4 November. Preliminary permission has been obtained for construction of the Akkuyu NPP in Turkey allowing construction and installation work to begin, apart from security buildings and facilities of the nuclear island. We are preparing the tenders for work, services, and equipment. At the project office at the Hanhikivi-1 NPP site in Finland, pre-design work is in progress, and documentation for obtaining a construction license is being prepared. In Hungary, the EPC contract for construction of two units at the Paks-2 NPP came into full force on 29 April, including the financial obligations of the parties.

Last year ASE won two international awards for its Multi-D technology - the Mega-Project award at the Fiatech 2016 Technology Conference & Showcase in the USA and first prize in the Operational Excellence category at the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris. What is special about this technology?

This was the result of 10 years of hard work. The Multi-D system makes possible effective management of all phases of the NPP life cycle and other capital construction projects. It reduces design time, improves project quality, cuts the time it takes to purchase, optimizes technology, and improves construction and installation work timeframes. The system allows for better performance and cost-effectiveness in the design lifetime of facilities. It optimizes loading modes, and increase safety through preliminary modelling of technological operations and by monitoring of the facility throughout its lifetime. In 2014, use of the Multi-D system, enabled unit 3 of the Rostov NPP to be commissioned two months ahead of schedule, saving RUB2bn ($34m).

The Multi-D Technology uses detailed 3D representations to model construction and installation processes, optimize construction operations during the preparatory phase, analyze different scenarios of resource consumption and, if needed, improve the 3D model during the course of the project. Apart from the spatial model of facilities under construction (including drawings and 3D visualization), the Multi-D technology incorporates a construction schedule (based on standard progress rates) and quantified construction data.

Do you plan to extend these technologies to non-nuclear markets?

The Multi-D platform certainly has the potential, and is already being introduced in other industries of Russia. Thus, individual platform instruments have been supplied to “Skorostnii Magistrali” - Russian Railways JSC. The Russian government is committed to creating a digital economy, and the engineering division of Rosatom has every chance to become one of the main competence centers in the development of this programme. This is, in fact, the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution. We became "professional revolutionaries" a long time ago. For many years, we have been doing all our work digitally. For us, it is a matter of security and the sustainability of our business in the conditions of a fiercely competitive market.

How important are nuclear engineering technologies such those used in the back-end sector?

This business is a separate direction in our company. NIKIMT-Atomstroy deals with it. Our subsidiary NUKEM is now managed by NIKIMT-Atomstroy. The construction stage of the first phase for the decommissioning facility for Ignalina NPP in Lithuania has been completed. In May, the B1 unit was commissioned; hot tests of the B2,3 and 4 units are in progress. At the end of August, the construction of a national repository for radioactive waste with a long decay period of 138,200 m3 was launched in Bulgaria. A contract for the first phase of construction was signed. It will help with the decommissioning of four nuclear reactors at the Kozloduy NPP, which were built in the Soviet era. Contracts for decommissioning, in particular for dismantling steam generators at German Biblis NPP, have been signed. A contract for treatment of oil production equipment contaminated with naturally occurring radionuclides in Saudi Arabia has been signed.

ASE not only builds NPPs, but also leads in the publication of annual reports in Russia. Why is this a priority?

Today, it is a global trend, just like digitization of the economy. The main thing for us, as for any other businesses, is sustainable development. However, no company exists in the vacuum. It has many contacts with the outside world – suppliers, customers, contractors, authorities, regulators, investors, and others. A mutually beneficial relationship with all these stakeholders is a contribution ASE can make to business development. Therefore, an important direction of our activity is related to the continuous improvement of the company's integrated reporting. It is an attempt to be more open, with the aim of increasing trust and public acceptance of the company's activities in Russia and abroad. ASE's integrated reporting demonstrates how the company's business model works, how the company integrates thinking, and how business value grows. Integrated reports demonstrate to stakeholders that, first of all, the company is competently managed, secondly, its business model is successful in comparison with competitors, and its activity is highly profitable.

ASE has a long-term business model, and so risks, strategies, and sustainable development are given great attention in daily work, and accordingly, these aspects are widely disclosed in our reports. The company's reports show that ASE not only complies with all safety requirements, but also uses a system of preventive measures to avoid any force majeure or unforeseen situations during construction and maintenance of an NPP.

We adhere to industry’s best practices for disclosure of information of world’s major companies, including those that operate in the nuclear power industry. Doing business on the principles of responsibility and sustainable development is a practical necessity for the company.

The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) has added ASE’s report to its database as best practice for determining the relevance of topics. The annual report of the ASE Group of Companies for 2016 was recognized as one of the best in the LACP Vision Awards 2016/2017 Annual Report Competition. 

Rosatom Rostov 4 started up in February
Rosatom The use of Multi-D technology led to savings in cost and time during construction of Rostov 3
Rosatom The Solid Radioactive Waste Management and Storage Facility (B3/4 project) at Ignalina was granted an operating licence in October
Rosatom The melt trap or core catcher for Kursk II was completed in February
Rosatom The use of Multi-D technology led to savings in cost and time during construction of Rostov 3
Rosatom Rostov 4 started up in February
Rosatom The melt trap or core catcher for Kursk II was completed in February

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