Current Status, September 1998: Nuclear Power for the Next Century

Publish date: September 28, 1998

Written by: Igor Kudrik

The Russian government has approved a program on atomic energy development through the next 12 years, submitted by the Ministry for Atomic Energy in late July. The program, aimed at keeping the nuclear share of Russian energy production at today's level, is to be implemented with a minimum cost for the Russian federal budget, according to Minatom.

Although the current economic crisis in Russia may lessen the likelihood of these plans being put into effect in the immediate future, this Current Status is devoted to a thorough examination of them.

The ambitious plans of the Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom), submitted to the Russian government as a "Program for Development of Atomic Energy in the Russian Federation in 1998-2005 and for the Period until 2010," was approved by governmental decree no. 815 on July 21, 1998.

The plans call for the commissioning of 16 reactor units (including two floating units) by the year 2010. By the same year, nine reactor units will be shut down and three more will exceed their design lifetimes, but would be upgraded to operate beyond design limits. The program assumes the completion of reactor units under construction, as well as building of new nuclear power plants. Priority would be granted to units with reactor installations of the third generation: VVER-1000 (V-392 type) and VVER-640 (V-407 type). The final projections for the third generation reactors would reportedly be ready by the end of 1998. At some of the plants, new RBMK-1000 and BN-800 reactors will be put in operation.

The program assumes minimum and maximum output upon completion. The minimum output would lead to an increase from 21.2 GW (21.2 gigawatts, 115 billion kilowatt-hours) of power in 1998 to 27.6 GW (150-170 billion kilowatt-hours) by 2006-2010. All in all, the share of atomic energy in Russia would increase by 1%: from the current 13% to 14%.

The program’s price tag is 113.9 billion rubles (some $18 billion). 63.3 billion rubles (some $10.4 billion) have been earmarked until the year 2005 by Rosenergoatom, the state-controlled operator of Russian NPPs, and enterprises of the Russian nuclear fuel cycle. The rest of the funds would be allocated by the federal budget. The latter is very questionable, suggesting that the share shouldered by Rosenergoatom may increase with time. In addition, Rosenergoatom would apply for a $290 million loan from the European Union to fulfill the program.

Russia currently has nine nuclear power plants with 29 reactor units in operation.

Completion of earlier planned NPPs; upgrade of those currently in operation
By the year 2010, Russia plans to complete one reactor unit at Kalinin NPP and one at Kursk NPP, and to commission a part of four new nuclear power plants: Kola-2, Kursk-2, Leningrad-2, and Novovoronezh-2. In addition, construction of Smolensk-2 NPP is planned for completion after the year 2010. Nine reactor units will undergo upgrades to prolong their lifetimes for five years over design limits.

Beloyarsk NPP operates one fast-breeder reactor, a BN-600 commissioned in 1980. This unit is scheduled to be shut down in 2010. Work on an upgrade to prolong the reactor lifetime beyond 2010 is to be launched in 1998-2000. Plans to complete the fourth BN-800 reactor unit at the plant are also in effect.

Construction work on the BN-800 started in 1987. In 1990, the Sverdlovsk County Deputies’ Council suspended the construction, having discovered safety faults in the reactor design. A compromise was reached in 1993. The basic faults described by the expert groups were included in a Minatom program called "Implementation of recommendations of the state expert group in connection with the BN-800." The program was approved by the government of Sverdlovsk County, the County Deputies’ Council, and Minatom. The deadline for implementation was set for the following year, but none of the points had been fulfilled by that time.

Despite this fact, in this year’s plan for new NPPs Minatom refers to the environmental evaluation conclusion dated February 18, 1993, thus "forgetting" the expert group recommendations mentioned above.

The completion schedule extends beyond 2010 and is not specified. Only a part of the federal funding is earmarked for this unit.

Bilibino NPP operates on four LWGR-12 (light water graphite) reactors commissioned in 1974, 1974, 1975, and 1976. The reactors are scheduled to be shut down in 2004, 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively. Upgrades are scheduled to begin at the plant in 1998-2000. However, neither lifetime prolongation nor building of a substitute is planned.

Balakovo NPP operates on four VVER-1000 reactors commissioned in 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1993. The reactors are scheduled to be shut down in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2023, respectively. Upgrade work is to be launched in 1998-2000 to ensure the further safe operation of the plant. The construction of the fifth and sixth reactor units has been suspended; their completion is not included in the program.

Kalinin NPP operates on two VVER-1000 reactors commissioned in 1984 and 1986, and scheduled to be shut down in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Upgrade work is to be launched in 1998-2000 to ensure the further safe operation of the plant. Plans to commission the third VVER-1000 reactor unit by the year 2000 are also in force. Environmental approval of this plan was made available in November 1992. Only a part of the federal funding is earmarked for this unit. Completion of the fourth VVER-1000 reactor unit is not planned in the program.

Kola NPP operates on four VVER-440 reactors put in operation in 1973, 1974, 1981, and 1984. The two oldest reactor units will run out of their design lifetime in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Minatom plans to prolong their operation through upgrade work until 2008 and 2009. The last two units are scheduled to be shut down in 2011 and 2014. The final upgrade work is to be implemented in the period from 1998 until 2000.

The program assumes construction of three VVER-640 reactor units at Kola NPP-2. The first two units are to be commissioned by the year 2010. In the period from 1998 to 2000, work will be intensified at the Kola NPP-2 construction site to build the first unit. Kola NPP-2 has already been granted a license to start construction of the first VVER-640 by Russia State Nuclear Inspection (GAN). Environmental approval of the project was prepared in December 1995. Kola NPP-2 apparently will be funded by the federal budget; it is otherwise not indicated in the program.

Kursk NPP operates on four RBMK-1000 reactors commissioned in 1976, 1979, 1983, and 1985. The two oldest reactors will conclude their design lifetimes in 2006 and 2009 respectively, but as a result of the intensive safety upgrade work planned for 1998-2000, the shut-down schedule will be postponed until the years 2011 and 2014. In 1998-2000, a fifth RBMK-1000 reactor unit at the NPP is planned to be commissioned, which is today approximately 70% complete. The construction of this reactor was re-evaluated and approved by the State Council on Environment and Natural Resources in October 1995. Rosenergoatom will primarily fund the completion of the reactor.

In addition, construction of Kursk NPP-2 is planned in 1998-2000, with intention to commission it by 2010. The reactor type for Kursk NPP-2 has not been defined yet, although it is said the power of the unit is to be 1000 MW (1000 megawatts). The funding is apparently to come from the state budget.

Leningrad NPP operates on four RBMK-1000 reactors commissioned in 1973, 1975, 1979, and 1981. The three oldest reactors would be shut down in 2003, 2005, and 2009. As a result of upgrades at these three reactors, funded mostly by western countries, the reactors will undergo intensive preparation in 1998-2000 to prolong their lifetimes until 2008, 2010, and 2014, respectively. The last reactor will be pulled out of service in 2011, as scheduled. No upgrades are planned so far.

In 1998-2000, the program is focused on preparing a feasibility study for the Leningrad NPP-2 project. The plant would incorporate three reactors of unspecified type with a power of 1000-1500 MW. The first one is to be commissioned by the year 2010. The funding would apparently depend upon the state budget.

Novovoronezh NPP operates on two VVER-440 and one VVER-1000 reactor commissioned in 1971, 1972, and 1980. The design lifetime of the first two would expire in 2001 and in 2002, but with upgrades scheduled for 1998-2000, the reactors will continue to operate until 2006 and 2007, respectively. The last VVER-1000 reactor would be shut down in 2010; it is otherwise not included in the program.

In addition, the program assumes further construction of Novovoronezh NPP-2 with two VVER-1000 reactors of new generation. Completion of the first reactor is scheduled for 2005, and the second reactor for 2010. The license for the location of the new plant has already been obtained from GAN. The construction was approved by the State Council on Environment and Natural Resources in January 1994. The funding would come from the federal budget.

Smolensk NPP operates on three RBMK-1000 reactors commissioned in 1982, 1985, and 1990. The design lifetimes of the reactor units expire in 2012, 2015, and 2020 respectively. Some upgrade work is planned for 1998-2000, although no intentions to prolong thelifetimes have been stated. A feasibility study for Smolensk NPP-2 is to be prepared during the same period. An unspecified reactor type with a power of 1000 MW would be commissioned some time after the year 2010, according to the program. Funding would rest on the federal budget; at least, it is not otherwise stated in the program.

Construction of completely new NPPs
The program assumes the construction and completion of three nuclear power plants, two nuclear heat power plants and two floating nuclear power plants.

Rostov NPP would be commissioned, according to the program, by 2005. The plant would comprise two VVER-1000 reactor units, first to be put into service by the year 2000.

In 1990, construction of the Rostov nuclear power plant (RNPP), comprising two VVER-1000 reactors, was frozen. The first reactor was 95% complete, and the second 47% complete. The total amount of money invested into the plant to date is estimated at $1.5 billion. To complete the construction, an additional $300 million is required. $100 million is to be allocated by Rosenergoatom. The rest of the sum is expected to come from private Russian banks and some western companies. No federal funding is earmarked.

Since 1990, environmental groups in Rostov County have been fighting against completion of the RNPP. However, in April 1997, the Russian Federation federal government issued a draft decree aimed at completion of the plant. The decree is backed by expert conclusions made by the Environmental Federal Committee dated July 14, 1995, where the project was fully approved from both economic and environmental points of view.

The plans to complete the plant met strong local resistance last year. The greens believe the plant has been inappropriately located in an area of seismic activity.

In summer this year, the head of Russian GAN said at a press-conference that construction of the Rostov plant has been suspended. GAN may come back to decide upon completion of the plant if local authorities and the population think it is necessary for Rostov County.

South-Urals NPP would incorporate one BN-800 fast-breeder reactor, which, according to the program, will be commissioned by 2010. The reactor would use weapons-grade uranium and plutonium as fuel, also known as MOX-fuel. Funding would rest entirely on the federal budget, although Minatom is depending on some western financial assistance.

Construction of the South-Urals NPP began in 1984. Originally it was supposed to consist of three BN-800 type reactors. When the project was halted in 1987, concrete footings had been laid for only two of the reactors. The project suffered both from economic difficulties and strong opposition at the local political level, and these obstacles, coupled with resistance from Chelyabinsk County authorities, were enough to block further construction. Nevertheless, in 1992 Minatom disregarded local resolve against the project and appropriated funds to resume construction. However, the funds earmarked for the project were consumed by inflation and were never actually transferred. The project has not been resumed.

Sosnovy Bor NPP would be outfitted by one VVER-640 reactor of a new generation. The reactor is scheduled for completion by 2005. The project itself passed enviroevaluation in December 1994 and received a license from GAN.

Estimated construction costs exceed 2 billion USD. The funding is to come through the federal budget, the Leningrad County budget, and from profits earned through energy exports from the currently operating Leningrad nuclear power plant. In addition, Minatom plans include loans from Russian banks and European financial institutions.

The plant would be a showcase for potential foreign customers, as was admitted by Minatom’s leadership on several occasions.

>b>Voronezh nuclear heat power plant would incorporate two unspecified reactor units with heating power of 500 MW each. Construction has already been launched and the plant would be put into operation by 2005. State enviroevaluation approved the project in April 1995. No federal budgeting is earmarked. All expenses are to be covered by local funds and resources from Rosenergoatom.

Tomsk nuclear heat power plant would incorporate two unspecified reactor units with heating power of 500 MW each. The feasibility study is not ready yet and will be completed by 1998-2000. No funding sources are indicated, which suggests that funds will come out of the federal budget.

Pevek floating NPP would be outfitted with one KLT-40 reactor used onboard Russian nuclear powered icebreakers, with a power output of 70 MW. The plant would be commissioned by 2005. The construction would take place at the Baltic Shipbuilding Yard in St. Petersburg. The plant would be used in the Chukotka region in southeastern Siberia at the Pevek settlement. If the project is implemented, it will be the first floating NPP built in Russia. Funding sources are unclear.

Volnolom floating NPP would be outfitted with one KLT-40 reactor, with power output 70 MW. The plant is to be commissioned by 2010. The plant would be installed in the Primor’e region in the Russian Far East. Neither the place of construction nor funding sources are specified.

Will the plans be fulfilled?
Taking into consideration the situation at Russian nuclear power plants today, this program elicits scepticism in terms of actual possibility of fulfilling the defined goals. All nine nuclear power plants in Russia are in deep economic crisis due to the inability of electricity consumers to pay their bills. Today, debts to the NPPs are as high as $328 million. During the past two months, only 1% of the debts were paid to the NPPs. One half of the expenses to implement the program is assumed to come from the federal budget, which, in view of today’s crisis in Russia, is hardly possible. In addition, the program takes for granted GAN licensing of the projects, which did not occur in the case of the planned Rostov NPP, even though the project is included in the program.

On the other hand, this program is not the first of its kind to be created during the 90s. In the next few years, another "dream plan" may be produced by Minatom and easily approved by the government.