Russian State-owned nuclear energy group Rosatom has announced that it has started operational trials with the world’s first Generation III+ nuclear reactor. This is the group’s VVER-1200 (AES-2006), designed and developed by its subsidiary, OKB Gidropress. It puts the Russian group ahead of its rivals in the worldwide nuclear market.
“Rosatom is the world’s largest supplier of nuclear power plants (NPPs) in the global market,” highlighted NIAEP President Valery Limarenko. (NIAEP is the power engineering and construction arm of Rosatom.) “Today, we have made our position stronger. This opens new opportunities for building up our presence in the global market.”
The new reactor forms Unit 6 of the Novovoronezhc NPP in Russia. On August 5, at 00:35, it was connected to the national grid and produced 240 MW of electricity. “This event is our great victory, which crowns a huge amount of work in installation and adjustment of equipment, and complex process operations,” affirmed Rosenergoatom general director Andrei Petrov. (Rosenergoatom is Rosatom’s power generation subsidiary.) “The operating personnel clearly understand the process, equipment operation safety and reliability.”
During the test connection to the grid, engineers and other specialists undertook a large number of tests and checks at various stages of the power build-up. The reactor’s systems were also inspected. These actions were carried out to make certain that the unit was operating safely and reliably.
This initial connection to the national grid came five months after the reactor first achieved criticality. It is expected to start full commercial operation by the end of this year. Between now and then, it will undergo mandatory acceptance tests and demonstrate 100% production capacity. Once in full service, it will increase the power capacity of the Novovoronezh NPP by a factor of 1.5. Unit 6 has an expected life of at least 60 years.
Generation III+ reactors provide both improved performance and increased safety, meeting the revised prescriptions of the International Atomic Energy Agency following the major accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP in Japan, triggered by the great earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 2011. (The earthquake and tsunami killed some 16 000 people; no one has died from radiation from the NPP.)
“ [Generation III+ reactors] feature a large number of passive safety systems, which are able to function even in case of a plant blackout and without [an] operator’s intervention,” explained Rosatom in its press release. “Unit 6 of the Novovoronezh NPP features a passive heat removal system from the reactor, hydrogen recombiners and a core catcher, which are unique and have no similarities worldwide.”
Rosatom is one of the groups known to be interested in supplying NPPs for South Africa’s proposed new NPP programme, which will supplement and later replace the current Koeberg NPP, which is currently the only NPP in Africa. Currently, South Africa is planning 9.6 GW of new NPP generating capacity.