Investment for Russian NPPs agreed

22 August 2019

Russian nuclear utility Rosenergoatom (part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom) will be able to spend up to RUB880 billion ($13.5bn) for the construction of new nuclear power units up to 2035, according to preliminary calculations approved by the Ministry of Energy, Komersant reported on 8 August, citing sources familiar with the discussions. Initially Rosatom had asked for finance from the wholesale energy market of RUB1,160bn, which it planned to invest in the construction of two new VVER-1200 reactors (new VVER-TOI design) at Kursk II NPP (already under construction, commissioning in 2021 and 2025), two VVER-1200s for the third and fourth units at Leningrad II NPP, and a BN-1200 fast neutron reactor at the Beloyarsk NPP (commissioning period 2031–2035, for which a feasibility study is underway). The VVER-1200s will replace the RBMK reactors now reaching the end of their design life. However, construction of the BN-1200 may now be postponed to from 2027 to 2036 to reduce energy market spending, Kommersant’s sources said.

The reassessment reflected a new stage of investment in the Russian electric power industry, in which the funds of large consumers will be redistributed, after the completion of a programme of contracts for the supply of capacity, the paper noted. Financing to pay for the new units will be paid back over 20 years (instead of 15 years, with an average rate of return on investment of 10.5% a year (instead of 14%), the article said. However Rosatom is prepared to consider a lower rate of return, it added. Construction costs will not be standardised, but calculated from real costs. Some 10GWe of nuclear capacity is to be built at a cost of almost RUB1,000bn, taking into account financing from the state budget and loans. According to Vygon Consulting partner Alexei Zhikharev, the requested funds may be enough to build 11 units with a total capacity of up to 13GWe, provided commissioning dates are readjusted to 2028.

According to the “Market Council” (energy market regulator), the total investment resource of the energy market to 2035 is RUB3,470bn (at 2021 prices). The new investment cycle will take into account the modernisation of old thermal plants, the construction of remote energy facilities, the development of green generation, and NPPs, but the funds must be distributed among market participants so that the prices of the wholesale energy market do not rise above inflation.

However, a new mechanism to support the construction NPPs is still under discussion, Kommersant’s sources said. Investments under the first NPP preventive maintenance programmes were partially covered from the budget through the nuclear development programme, and although the state budget funding for NPP construction decreased from year to year, expenditure, for example, for radioactive waste disposal, was increasing. In future, the amount of funds received from the treasury will depend on the price of capacity, taking into account profitability. One of Kommersant’s sources said the new support mechanism will still involve budget funds.

Meanwhile, development of the BN-1200 continues. Specialists from the Nizhny Novgorod Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IAP RAS) have created a unique system for studying the BN-1200 fast   reactor, the press service of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education reported in January. “At OKBM Afrikantov (part of Rosatom), development work continues on the promising large-capacity reactor BN-1200, some of which is being carried out on the Tissey large-scale stand, where thermal-hydrophysical processes of a real object are simulated in a wide range of conditions, the report said. The stand at IAP RAS has developed a system for measuring using Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV). 

The system provides not only simultaneous illumination with several lasers and video cameras shooting of various processes on the stand, but also the possibility of three-dimensional virtual modelling.

"A series of measurements made with the help of the new system allowed the scientists of IAP RAS to form and transfer to the production workers a database on coolant velocity fields inside the reactor model under a wide range of conditions, including idle, working and emergency modes, and the safety of the promising reactor BN-1200 ", the report said. In December 2018, Rosatom director general Alexei Likhachev said the BN-1200 was a priority project which was planned to start construction in the 2020s. OKBM Afrikantov is finalising development of technical specifications.

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