Kola nuclear power plant’s safety systems were activated April 8 leading to an automatic shutdown of its Number 1 reactor unit, Interfax reported.
Malfunctions in turbine machinery were responsible for the incident which officials said did not result in a release of radioactivity. They called it a "0" on the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES).
The Russian television network, NTV, reported on the day of the incident that unidentified criminals, presumed to be plant employees, tried to remove part of the oil pressure monitoring system in the turbine machinery. The action triggered an alarm, scaring away the thieves. The system was damaged and the safety system was activated, shutting down the reactor.
Gennadiy Gurylev, head of the Murmansk County branch of the security police (FSB), said on camera that the incident was being taken very seriously. It was the first reported event involving theft of equipment by plant personnel. A press release from the plant made no reference to the alleged theft, and stated only that there had been some technical malfunctions. The reactor resumed operating the next day.
Kola Nuclear Power Plant operates four VVER-440 reactors commissioned between 1973, and 1984. The two oldest reactors, now 25 and 26-years-old, were scheduled for shut down in 2003 and 2004. The engineers of Kola NPP are trying to gain a new lease on a longer service life for the reactors; some five-seven years beyond 2004. The price tag for extending the lifetime of the two reactor units amounts to $200 million. Rosenergoatom, state operator of the eight Russian nuclear power plants (excluding Leningrad NPP), will likely fund the upgrade, but the company is cash strapped and temporarily unable to provide such a sum.
In early March, Kola NPP received another blow. The Russian nuclear minister said construction of new reactors at Kola was "inexpedient at this point," leaving plans for a new nuclear power plant on the Kola Peninsula in limbo.
March incident statistics
Referring to the records of the Russian State Nuclear Inspection Authority (GAN) ITAR-TASS reported the occurrence of three incidents at Russian nuclear power plants in March. GAN officials said reactors were automatically shut down at Beloyarsk NPP when cracks were discovered in the cladding of a fuel assembly, at Balakovo NPP due to a malfunction in control equipment and at Smolensk NPP as result of human error.
On three other occasions power output at nuclear power plants was reduced at the request of maintenance staff in order to carry out repair works (at Kalinin, Balakovo and Leningrad NPPs).