Director of Public Communications, World Nuclear Association
Russia is forging ahead in respect to its nuclear power program, despite a setback due to the recent recession diminishing both power demand and available capital.
Currently it is building four different kinds of nuclear power reactors: the well-proven VVER-1000, the VVER-1200 development of this, the world’s largest fast neutron reactor – BN-800, and the first floating nuclear power plant with a pair of 40MWe reactors adapted from ships.
Russia’s operating nuclear plants, with 31 reactors totalling 21,743 MWe, comprise:
» 6 first and second-generation VVER-440 pressurised water reactors,
» 9 third generation VVER-1000 pressurised water reactors with a full containment structure, mostly V-320 types,
» 11 RBMK light water graphite reactors now unique to Russia.
» 4 small graphite-moderated BWR reactors in eastern Siberia, constructed in the 1970s for cogeneration.
» One BN-600 fast-breeder reactor.
Several reactors supply district heating – a total of over 11 PJ/yr.
Generally, Russian reactors are licensed for 30 years from first power. Since 2000, lifetime extensions of twelve older reactors totalling one quarter of the operating capacity have been announced, with the extension period now 15 to 25 years, necessitating major investment in refurbishing them. This now often involves slight uprating of the power.
Rosatom is committed to a large expansion of nuclear capacity in order to liberate natural gas for export to Europe at prices far above those accounted domestically for power generation. Two thirds of electricity now comes from gas. The federal program envisages a 25-30% nuclear share in electricity supply by 2030, 45-50% in 2050 and 70-80% by end of the century.
In February 2010 the government announced that Rosenergoatom’s investment program for 2010 amounted to RUR 163.3 billion, of which RUR 53 billion would come from the federal budget. Of the total, RUR 101.7 billion is for nuclear plant construction, almost half of this from Rosenergoatom funds. It includes the reactors depicted below to 2015 plus the Baltic plant.
The Baltic nuclear power plant (2 x 1200 MWe VVER) in Kaliningrad is deliberately placed “essentially within the EU” and is designed to be integrated with the EU grid. Two thirds of the power would be exported to Germany, Poland and Baltic states, requiring some EUR 1 billion in transmission infrastructure. It will need some 49% European equity to proceed, though construction is scheduled to start in mid 2010, in Neman, close to the Lithuanian border. It is expected to cost some RUR 194 billion (EUR 4.45 billion, $6.6 billion) for 2300 MWe net.
The federal program is based on VVER technology at least to about 2030. But it highlights the goal of moving to fast neutron reactors and closed fuel cycle.
Transition to fast reactors
The BN-800 Beloyarsk-4 fast reactor designed by OKBM Afrikantov is intended to replace the BN-600 unit 3 at Beloyarsk, though the RUR 64 billion project has been delayed by lack of funds since construction start in 2006. At the end of 2009 it was reported as on schedule, though start-up dates range 2013-14. Two of these sodium-cooled BN-800 reactors have been sold to China, for 2012 construction start.
OKBM Afrikantov is developing a BN-1200 reactor as a next step towards BN-1800. Rosatom’s Science and Technology Council has approved the BN-1200 reactor for Beloyarsk, with pilot plant construction planned to start in 2020.
Moving in the other direction, and downsizing from BN-800 etc, a pilot 100 MWe SVBR-100 unit is to be built at Obninsk, by AKME-Engineering by 2015. This is a modular lead-bismuth cooled fast neutron reactor concept from OKB Gidropress, and is designed to meet regional needs in Russia and abroad. If built in clusters of 10 to 16 units it is claimed to be competitive with VVER types. (AKME-Engineering was set up in 2009 by Rosatom and the En+ Group, a subsidiary of Basic Element Group, as a 50-50 joint venture.)
The option selected for moving to fast reactors involves development of three different technologies: the existing sodium-cooled fast reactor of about 800 MWe, the lead-bismuth-cooled SVBR fast reactor of 100 MWe, and finally the lead-cooled BREST fast reactor of 300 MWe. In addition, a 150 MWt multi-purpose fast research reactor (MBIR) is to be built by 2020. The total fast reactor budget to 2020 is about RUR 60 billion, largely from the federal budget. The program is intended to result in a 70% growth in exports of high technology equipment, works and services rendered by the Russian nuclear industry by 2020.
The BREST lead-cooled fast reactor to be built over 2016-20 will be a new-generation fast reactor which dispenses with the fertile blanket around the core and supersedes the BN-600/800 design, to give enhanced proliferation resistance. All of the RUR 25.7 development cost will come from the federal budget.
Aluminium and nuclear power
Since 2007 Rosatom and RUSAL, now the world’s largest aluminium and alumina producer, have been undertaking a feasibility study on a nuclear power generation and aluminium smelter at Primorye in Russia’s far east. This proposal is taking shape as a US$ 10 billion project involving four 1000 MWe reactors and a 600,000 t/yr smelter with Atomstroyexport having a controlling share in the nuclear side. The smelter will require about one third of the output from 4 GWe, and electricity exports to China and North and South Korea are envisaged.
In October 2007 a $7 billion project was announced for the world’s biggest aluminium smelter in the Saratov region, complete with two new nuclear reactors to power it. The 1.05 million tonne per year aluminium smelter is to be built by RUSAL at Balakovo, and would require about 15 billion kWh/yr. The initial plan was for the existing Balakovo nuclear power plant of four 950 MWe reactors to be expanded with two more – the smelter would require a little over one third of the output of the expanded power plant. However, in February 2010 it was reported that RUSAL proposed to build its own 2000 MWe nuclear power station, with construction to start in 2011.
Nuclear icebreakers and merchant ship
Nuclear propulsion has proven technically and economically essential in the Russian Arctic where operating conditions are beyond the capability of conventional icebreakers. The power levels required for breaking ice up to 3 metres thick, coupled with refuelling difficulties for other types of vessels, are significant factors. The nuclear fleet has increased Arctic navigation from 2 to 10 months per year, and in the Western Arctic, to year-round. Greater use of the icebreaker fleet is expected with developments on the Yamal Peninsula and further east.
The core capacity here is a fleet of large icebreakers, six 23,500 dwt Arktika-class, launched from 1975. These powerful vessels have two 171 MWt OK-900 reactors delivering 54 MW at the propellers and are used in deep Arctic waters. The seventh and largest Arktika class icebreaker – 50 Years of Victory (50 Let Pobedy) entered service in 2007. Two shallow-draught Taymyr-class icebreakers of 18,260 dwt with one reactor delivering 35 MW were built in Finland for use in shallow waters such as estuaries and rivers.
In 1988 the NS Sevmorput was commissioned in Russia, mainly to serve northern Siberian ports. It is a 61,900 tonne 260 m long lash-carrier (taking lighters to ports with shallow water) and container ship with ice-breaking bow. It is powered by the same KLT-40 reactor as used in larger icebreakers, delivering 32.5 propeller MW from the 135 MWt reactor and it needed refuelling only once to 2003.
Russian experience with nuclear powered Arctic ships totals about 300 reactor-years in 2009.
Floating nuclear power plants (FNPP)
Rosatom is planning to construct seven or eight floating nuclear power plants by 2015. The first of them is under construction at the Baltic shipyard at St Petersburg, designated for Vilyuchinsk, Kamchatka. The second is planned for Pevek on the Chukotka peninsula in the far northeast, near Bilibino. Each has two 35 MWe KLT-40S nuclear reactors mounted on a 21,500 tonne barge 144 metres long, 30 m wide. Three 12-year operating cycles are envisaged, with maintenance between them.
Russia is developing a new icebreaker reactor – RITM-200 – to replace the current KLT 40 reactors. This is an integral 210 MWt, 55 MWe PWR with inherent safety features. For floating nuclear power plants a single RITM-200 would replace twin KLT-40S (but yield less power).
In addition, 5 GW of thermal power plants (mostly AST-500 integral PWR type) for district and industrial heat will be constructed at Arkhangelsk (4 VK-300 units commissioned to 2016), Voronezh (2 units 2012-18), Saratov, Dimitrovgrad and (small-scale, KLT-40 type PWR) at Chukoyka and Severodvinsk. Russian nuclear plants provided 11.4 PJ of district heating in 2005, and this is expected to increase to 30.8 PJ by about 2010. (A 1000 MWe reactor produces about 95 PJ per year internally to generate the electricity.)
Heavy engineering and turbine generators
The main reactor component supplier is OMZ’s Komplekt-Atom-Izhora facility which is doubling the production of large forgings so as to be able to manufacture three or four pressure vessels per year from 2011. OMZ is expected to produce the forgings for all new domestic AES-2006 model VVER-1200 nuclear reactors (four per year from 2016) plus exports. Forgings include reactor pressure vessels, steam generators, and heavy piping. The company has been reconstructing its 12,000 tonne hydraulic press, and a second stage of work will increase that capacity to
Turbine generators for the new plants are mainly from Power Machines subsidiary LMZ, which supplies high-speed (3000 rpm) turbines and plans also to offer 1200 MWe low-speed (1500 rpm) turbines from 2014. Alstom Atomenergomash will produce low-speed turbine generators based on Alstom’s Arabelle design, sized from 1200 to 1700 MWe. Silovy Mashiny plans to invest RUB 6 billion in a factory near St Petersburg to produce half-speed steam turbine generators of 1200 MWe from 2013. It is 25% owned by Siemens.
In September 2006 the technology future for Russia was focused on four elements:
» Serial construction of AES-2006 units, with increased service life to 60 years,
» Fast breeder BN-800,
» Small and medium reactors – KLT-40 and VBER-300,
The main reactor design being deployed until now has been the V-320 version of the VVER-1000 pressurised water reactor, with 950-1000 MWe net output, as the heart of what became the AES-92 power plant. It is from OKB Gidropress, has 30-year basic design life and dates from the 1980s. Advanced versions of this with western instrument and control systems have been built at Tianwan in China and are being built at Kudankulam in India, with 40-year design life.
Development of a third-generation standardised VVER-1200 reactor of 1170 MWe net followed, as the basis of the AES-2006 power plant. This is an evolutionary development of the well-proven VVER-1000/V-320 and then the Generation III V-392 in the AES-92 plant, with longer life (50 years and aiming for 60), greater power, and greater thermal efficiency (36.56% instead of 31.6%). The lead units are being built at Novovoronezh II, to start operation in 2012-13, and at Leningrad II for 2013-14.
A typical AES-2006 plant will be a twin set-up with two of these OKB Gidropress reactor units expected to run for 50 years with capacity factor of 90%. Construction time is quoted as 54 months. They have enhanced safety including that related to earthquakes and aircraft impact with some passive safety features, double containment and lower core damage frequency. In Europe the basic technology is being called the Europe-tailored reactor design, MIR-1200 (Modernized International Reactor), and bid for Temelin 3 & 4, Turkey and Finland.
A Generation IV Gidropress project is the supercritical VVER (VVER-SKD or VVER-SCWR) with higher thermodynamic efficiency (45%) and higher breeding ratio (0.95) and oriented towards the closed fuel cycle.
OKBM Afrikantov’s VBER-300 PWR is a 295 MWe unit developed from naval power plants and was originally envisaged in pairs as a floating nuclear power plant. As a cogeneration plant it is rated at 200 MWe and 1900 GJ/hr for heat or desalination. The reactor is designed for 60 year life and 90% capacity factor. It was planned to develop it as a land-based unit with Kazatomprom, with a view to exports, but this agreement has stalled. There is support for two demonstration units at Zheleznogorsk for the Mining & Chemical Combine (MMC).
The VK-300 boiling water reactor is being developed by the Research & Development Institute of Power Engineering (NIKIET) for both power (250 MWe) and desalination (150 MWe plus 1675 GJ/hr). It has evolved from the VK-50 experimental BWR at Dimitrovgrad, but uses standard components wherever possible, eg the reactor vessel of the VVER-1000. A feasibility study on building 4 cogeneration VK-300 units at Archangelsk was favourable, delivering 250 MWe power and 31.5 TJ/yr heat.
RBMK / MKER
A development of the RBMK was the MKER-800, with much improved safety systems and containment, but this thas been shelved. Like the RBMK itself, it was designed by VNIPIET (All-Russia Science Research and Design Institute of Power Engineering Technology) at St Petersburg.
In the 1970-80s OKBM undertook substantial research on high temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs). In the 1990s it took a lead role in the international GT-MHR (Gas Turbine-Modular Helium Reactor) project based on a General Atomics (US) design. Preliminary design was completed in 2001 and the prototype was to be constructed at Seversk (Tomsk-7, Siberian Chemical Combine) by 2010, with construction of the first 4-module power plant (4×285 MWe) by 2015. Initially it will be used to burn pure ex-weapons plutonium, and replace production reactors which still supply electricity there. But in the longer-term perspective HTRs are seen as important for burning actinides, and later for hydrogen production.
Improving reactor performance
A major recent emphasis has been the improvement in operation of present reactors with better fuels and greater efficiency in their use, closing much of the gap between Western and Russian performance. Fuel developments include the use of burnable poisons – gadolinium and erbium, as well as structural changes to the fuel assemblies.
With uranium-gadolinium fuel and structural changes, VVER-1000 fuel has been pushed out to 4-year endurance, and VVER-440 fuel even longer. For VVER-1000, five years is envisaged by 2010, with enrichment levels increasing nearly by one third (from 3.77% to 4.87%) in that time, average burn-up going up by 40% (to 57.7 GWd/t) and operating costs dropping by 5%. With a 3 x 18 month operating cycle, burn-up would be lower (51.3 GWd/t) but load factor could increase to 87%. Comparable improvements were envisaged for later-model
For RBMK reactors the most important development has been the introduction of uranium-erbium fuel at all units, though structural changes have helped. As enrichment and erbium content are increased (eg from 2.4 or 2.6% to 2.8% enrichment and 0.6% erbium) increased burn-up is possible and the fuel can stay in the reactor six years. Also from 2009 the enrichment is profiled along the fuel elements, with 3.2% in the central section and 2.5% in the upper and lower parts. This better utilises uranium resources and further extends fuel life in the core.
For the BN-600 fast reactor, improved fuel means up to 560 days between refuelling.
Beyond these initiatives, the basic requirements for fuel have been set as: fuel operational lifetime extended to 6 years, improved burn-up of 70 GWd/tU, and improved fuel reliability. In addition, many nuclear plants will need to be used in load-following mode, and fuel which performs well under variable load conditions will be required.
All RBMK reactors now use recycled uranium from VVER reactors and some has also been used experimentally at Kalinin-2 and Kola-2 VVERs. It is intended to extend this. A related project has been to utilise surplus weapons-grade plutonium in mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for up to seven VVER-1000 reactors from 2008, and the one fast reactor (Beloyarsk-3) from 2007.