Kola NPP director wants to run reactors for a total of 60 years

kola_npp_4 The Kola Nuclear Power Plant's entrance. Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer

Vasily Omelchuk, director of the Kola Nuclear Power Plant near Murmansk yesterday told an energy conference his plant wants to extended the operational time of its already aged and extended reactors to 60 years, Interfax reported.

He also made mention of modest progress toward building a second Kola Nuclear Power Plant, which has widely been considered unneeded for the Murmansk region in view of its energy surpluses.

Speaking at the SevTek 2016 conferenc in Murmansk, Omelchuk said he would like to see all four reactors at the old plant operating at 60 years total.

“We and science see in this a real possibility – we have begun the process of realizing an investment project for extending the use of the reactors to 60 years for the first unit,” he said, adding that in 2017 they would begin to compile an investment program to extend reactor Nos 2, 3 and 4 as well to 60 years over their original closure dates as well.

kola nuclear power plant The Kola Nuclear Power Plant in the Kola Peninsula town of Polyarny Zory. (Photo: RIA Novosti/Roman Denisov)

According to Interfax the investment programs for the extensions would be spearheaded by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

All of Kola NPP’s reactors are currently operating on extensions as it is.

According to Interfax, Omelchuk’s hoped for extensions would mean that reactor No 1 would run until 2033 instead of 2018; reactor No 2 would run until 2034 instead of 2019; reactor No 3 would run until 2041 instead of 2036, and reactor No 4 would operate until 2044 instead of 2039.

The No 1,2 3, and 4 reactor began operation in 1973, 1974, 1981 and 1984.

Nils Bøhmer, Bellona’s executive director and nuclear physicist said Omelchuk’s plans sounded familiar. But he also said Russian regulators didn’t have the clout to ensure extending the reactors to a 60-year run time would be safe.

“We are skeptical of the process of prolonging run times for aging reactors. We have not seen any independent safety review of this idea and we are afraid Russian nuclear regulators don’t have the power to demand the safety upgrades that would be necessary for running the reactors to 60 years,” he said.

“In any case, I don’t think it would be possible to upgrade these reactors to the level required by international safety standards.”

The b-port Russian news portal also reported that Omelchuk told the conference that Rosatom was still planning on building a second Kola NPP and that a spot to build it had already been agreed upon.

Rosatom did not confirm that it was considering a new plant by press time, though discussions surrounding a second Kola NPP have been noncommittally ongoing for a number of years.

At the conference, however, Omelchuk outlined some concrete steps.

“A spot has been chosen […] it’s ready at any moment for the construction of a new nuclear power plant,” he said. But he acknowledged that there was little demand for the power it would produce.