Kola – the Arctic nuclear power plant

30 June 1998

The Kola nuclear power plant, which houses four VVER-440 units, was the first nuclear plant in Russia to be built north of the Arctic Circle. Most of the power generated by the plant supplies the heavy industry in the Kola Peninsula; some is also supplied to Finland.

Kola is situated on the shore of the Imandra lake, which is one of the largest in northern Europe. It is served by the city of Polyarnie Zori which is about 15 km to the west. The industrial cities of Monchegorsk, Kirovsk, Apatity and Kandalaksha are all within 120 km of the plant. The border with Norway is just over 200 km away and that of Finland around 50km.

There are four VVER-440 pressurised water reactors at the Kola site. The two oldest reactors are model 230s which were commissioned in 1973 and 1974. The two later model 213s were commissioned in 1981 and 1984.

The VVER-440 primary circuit contains the reactor, six main circulation pumps, and six steam generators.


Having borders with Finland and Norway, its Nordic neighbours have provided considerable assistance to improve safety at the plant.

Besides bilateral help, funds have been made available by the EBRD’s Nuclear Safety Account for a number of safety improvement projects. The funding that has been made available from the EBRD is to ensure that the plants run safely until the planned closure – the two oldest reactors were designed to operate for thirty years, which will be up in 2003/04. A description of the work of the Project Management Unit providing consultancy services at Kola


To replace the power lost after the reactors are shutdown, Russia has announced plans to construct another nuclear power plant nearby which would likely include three advanced VVER-640s. While some site work has actually been started on the first new unit, there are not enough funds to do much work on this project.

VVER safety features

The VVER-440 safety systems include features to handle severe accidents providing emergency shutdown, cooling, continuous residual heat transfer, overpressure protection, controlled containment of activity and fission products, and the “localisation” of the accidents. (The reactor and the primary circuit are enclosed in a sealed “box” designed to contain any failure of the primary circuit, eg the rupture of the main pipelines of 500 mm id.)

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