Russian nuclear industry – seven decades of glorious history

Russian nuclear industry – seven decades of glorious history

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Raquib Siddiqui
Despite global economic crisis, the nuclear industry of Russia celebrates its 70th anniversary on a high note. According to many experts, credit for glorious existence of Russian nuclear industry goes to Rosatom Engineering Division.
For many years Russian nuclear power plant construction technologies have been widely used by foreign customers as some of the most reliable technologies in the world.  After Russia built the first plant units in the post-Soviet era, countries  like China, India and Iran choose Russian contractors for construction their new nuclear power plants followed by other such as Belarussia, Turkey, Finland , Hungary and others , who are also turning to reliable Russian technologies and Generation 3+ projects . All these countries actively collaborate with the IAEA that analyzes and evaluates safety of the NPPs being built and operated.

Raqib Siddiqi

Raqib Siddiqi

At present Rosatom has achieved leadership in the area of international NPP construction market and this has become possible because Russia approaches the customer with a comprehensive programme that covers the entire nuclear chain from uranium mining and enrichment to management and reprocessing of spent fuel and waste, from construction of a nuclear power plant to its management and decommissioning. It is based on the unique state-of-the-art technologies,.
Russia also offers different options for partial or full funding of projects development. It makes possible wide localization, which means new jobs, additional taxes for the budget and social issues solution. It contributes to development of nuclear infrastructure, training of specialists and future nuclear elite of the country. And the last but perhaps most important point is that Russia offers such intellectual project management technologies that actually make it possible to affect cost management and deadlines for projects both in Russia and overseas.
Thus, the success of the Russian nuclear industry on the international market is not a myth, this success has been accumulating for decades with contributions from several generations of the great scientific and technological power.
It was Russia that launched the first commercial nuclear power plant in Obninsk in 1954 giving the mankind the energy of the peaceful atom. The first commercial nuclear power plants in the USSR encouraged emergence of a whole atomic energy “civilization” comprising nuclear power plants and towns that serve them, institutes, schools of sciences, industry, nuclear fuel plants and transport infrastructure.
It may recalled that the first projects that the USSR started implementing in the late 60’s and early 70’s of the last century in Eastern Europe and Finland were characterized by a fairly broad participation of the local industry in creation of NPPs. The localization level achieved in these projects allowed gradual changing over to a large-scale multifaceted specialization in manufacturing equipment for VVER-440 and VVER-1000 NPPs with transfer of the equipment manufacture technology to plants in the participating countries.
Czechoslovakia, for example, manufactured reactor units, steam turbines, steam generators and large diameter pipelines. The German Democratic Republic manufactured overhead traveling cranes, polar cranes and transport and handling equipment. And Hungary manufactured fuel handling machines and special water purification equipment.
All nuclear reactor engineering companies as well as western countries closely followed the progress of the experiment. And its success was in many ways achieved through such international cooperation project headed by the Russian nuclear industry.Today’s foreign customers of Russian projects graduated from Russian universities and work at the stations of Russian design.
Of course, the Russian nuclear industry also faced years of stagnation following the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear power plants. However, the national design and research institutes continued to work focusing on modernization of the operating nuclear power plants in Russia and overseas and developing a new safety philosophy for new generation plants that was supposed to eliminate both an adverse human factor and any external effects. By the way, the Russian nuclear industry was able to retain the invaluable teams of professionals and unique competence largely thanks to the overseas projects.
In 2007, Russia put into operation the first and second units of Tianwan NPP built in accordance with an updated nuclear power plant design including the most modern and sophisticated safety systems at that time. In 2010, Tianwan NPP set a record among the NPPs operating in China in terms of the length of an uninterrupted operation during the first fuel cycle.
In 2010, Bushehr NPP, a unique project with no analogues, was put into operation. Russian Atomstroyexport and its contractors were able to integrate Russian equipment in the construction part of the project performed in accordance with a German design, and, in addition, apply about 12 thousand tonnes of German equipment. A lot of work was done on the assessment of the condition and fitness of German equipment, buildings and structures.
Design engineers had to invent, develop and apply a range of original technical solutions and know-hows in order to adapt Russian technologies to the facilities already available at the site. For example, the core equipment of the nuclear island and the turbine are Russian-manufactured and the buildings are of a German design. Reconfiguration of the reactor compartment was performed in order to install Russian VVER reactor.  In order to make it possible to install a turbine in the power house designed and built by Kraftwerk Union A.G., the turbine design was changed.
Kudankulam NPP in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu is the largest nuclear power plant in India and the largest Russia and India cooperation project.
Currently the works to put Kudankulam NPP into operation are nearing completion.  The first unit is at the warranty period operation stage scheduled for completion at the end of this year, the second unit is at the second equipment audit stage to be followed by fresh fuel loading and reactor power startup with connection to the Indian power grid.
Kudankulam NPP construction is based on an improved Russian VVER-1000 Generation III+ design that fully meets requirements of the effective regulatory and technical documents of the Russian Federation and the IAEA and is certified in compliance with the requirements of the European Operating Organizations Club (EUR) applicable to the NPPs built after the year 2000.
Kudankulam NPP design prototype was selected by Iran for the second stage of Bushehr NPP construction.
In December 2014, in accordance with requirements of the comprehensive tests programme, the first power unit underwent performance guarantee tests that, by the way, showed the unit actual power generation at the level of 1016 MW against the design performance guarantee of 995 MW.
Ruppur NPP in Bangladesh should not go unmentioned as its construction is based on Russian technologies.  Nuclear industry in Bangladesh is undergoing a period of formation. Russia plans to implement a wide range of programs on providing training and methodological support to the nuclear industry of Bangladesh including cooperation of regulatory authorities of the two countries.
Personnel of the Atomic Energy Commission and regulating body of Bangladesh adopt very intense approaches to studying the design of the NPP under construction, which guarantees in the future professional approaches to supervision of Ruppur NPP construction and safe operation.
The project to be implemented at the Ruppur NPP construction site is based on the most modern Generation 3+ NPP design with light water coolant characterized by a significantly higher safety level and improved performance compared to the previous generation reactors. It meets the latest international safety requirements, including, of course, the post-Fukusima requirements. Even if all NPP electricity and water supply systems break down for a long period of time, it will be able, working autonomously, to stop nuclear fission, remove residual heat and provide the necessary safety for the necessary period of time.
Ruppur NPP project will involve the most modern and innovative construction and project management technologies. First of all, it is Multi-D technology, a Russian know-how. The most important task and challenge for all NPP construction market players is the ability to manage such sophisticated project, especially when it requires close cooperation with the foreign customer. Russia responded to modern challenges just in time, combining all stages of NPP life cycle – from design to decommissioning – into a single digital model with clearly described business processes. The strenuous efforts resulted in creation of Multi-D technology, a new type of spatial and intelligent facility model. “Multi” because this facility model includes many (multi) “measurements”: drawings, 3D visualization and the works performance schedule that, in turn, is based on performance rates, physical volumes, specifications and the facility construction cost.  In short, it is a modern technology for which the latest products from the leading global developers are purchased and used.
Openness factor in nuclear power development
It seems that the closer people live to some nuclear facilities, the more worries they should have. But a very interesting statistical study was carried out in Russia. It revealed absolutely opposite results. The closer people live, for example, to a nuclear power plant, the less worries they have.
The people living near nuclear power facilities communicate with the relatives, friends or neighbors who work at these facilities, they are not prone to myths or rumors.
At the latest General Conference of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, the IAEA General Director, noted that one of the biggest challenges for the nuclear power engineering today is winning the public acceptance.
If the nuclear power engineering is maximally open to society, people around the world will be able to understand its benefits and what modern technologies will ensure the safe operation of nuclear power plants. That is why it is so important to raise the level of public acceptance of nuclear energy in the countries that have NPPs or are planning to develop this area.
Role of stability for nuclear power
Nuclear technologies export always involves global cooperation. It is impossible to guarantee safety without development of a stable national infrastructure that enables implementation of the national nuclear program in the governmental, legal, regulatory, administrative, technological, HR and industrial areas.
Nuclear plants can be compared with ancient olive trees of the Mediterranean region: they saw the great historical events of the fall and the rise of civilization but they still bear fruit, they are the basis of stability and national spirit of their countries.
NPP construction cycle lasts for about ten years. If it was operated properly, then its lifetime (60 years) can be extended for another twenty or thirty years. Its decommissioning may require ten-twenty years. Thus, the life cycle of one NPP unit from design stage to decommissioning lasts for a century. Several generations will pass during this time on the planet, including generations of politicians.
Today, nobody can fully appreciate the true value of nuclear energy for decades to come. But what goes without saying is that nuclear power engineering is a strategic area with long life cycles and safety ensuring as its top priority. It cannot depend on situational oscillations of the political climate. It needs to be based on stability ,both in the country and in international relations.
(Raquib Siddiqi is former editor, the Bangladesh Times.)

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