Exclusive interview of PowerTec with Director General of ROSATOM Sergey Kirienko.
- The Russian President has called for modernization of the country's economy, with the construction of nuclear power plants (NPPs) being high on the agenda. How is this program developing in Russia today?
- Today, we are building both in Russia - 26 reactors in coming years; one of them - the second reactor of Rostov NPP - has been connected to the grid recently and will be fully released for commercial operation this fall- and abroad using the well-proven VVER technology. As an example, two VVER-1000 reactors have made a good showing at the Tainwan NPP in China; this plant has been recognized as exemplary in terms of safety. But in the near future we intend to further optimize this design through making it fully standard.
The main thing we plan to do is seriously optimize its performance by working with the user or customer at all stages of the plant's life cycle.
We plan to reduce construction costs by 20% and reduce operating costs by 15%. We also plan to shorten the construction timeframe - from the first concrete through connection to the grid - to 46 months from the current 56 month. How will we achieve this? It will be done through optimizing various engineering and layout solutions of AES-2006 project and the soviet-era standard V-320 design with account being taken of later upgrades such as AS 91, 91/99, AS 92, i.e. Tianwan NPP, Kudankulam NPP).
The outcome of this will not just be the standard design of the optimized power unit with the VVER technology (VVER-TOI), but also a financial and economic pattern of a VVER unit's complete life stages - construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning - which can be used as an analysis of business processes in the nuclear industry.
Naturally, we hope that the standard optimized VVER technology will increase our competitive advantages in the foreign market and will help to achieve higher effectiveness, including the possibility of upgrading reactors already built with our technology. This is fully applicable to the Russian market where the majority of operating units employ the VVER technology. We plan to fully complete the project by 2012, after improving legal and regulatory bases and obtaining international certificates in the U.S. and European Union.
Regarding efficiency improvements to technologies for currently active plants, our goal here is to increase their capacity factor. In 2009, for instance, we succeeded in building up an average capacity factor by 0.7%, or up to 80.2%. I would remind you that a 1% increase in the capacity factor corresponds to an increase in electricity production by 2 billion kWh (about 300 MW of installed capacity) annually. This is quite an increase. In addition we are trying to reduce the duration of outages and shift our VVER-1000 reactors to the 18-month fuel cycle.
- In February 2010 the Russian Government approved funds for the investment program of Rosenergoatom for this year at RUB163.3bn. What share of these funds is intended for new build and management of the existing plants and what is for decommissioning?
- Rosatom has entered the phase of active nuclear new build in series and therefore the lion's share of the investment program will naturally be spent on new build. Today, Russia is building in parallel 10 new reactors on 6 sites, as well as a floating nuclear power plant. This will have three quarters of the investment program in total. The remainder will be spent for investment projects for service life extension of the 2nd generation reactors, preparation for decommissioning of some facilities, the capacity factor improvement program at operating plants and their installed capacity uprating.
- Rosatom's Scientific and Technical Board approved the development project of a BN-1200 fast neutron reactor, which is planned to be built at the Beloyarsk NPP site by 2020. What advantages will the new generation of fast nuclear reactors bring to the market?
- The development of the BN-1200 innovative reactor is a part of our strategic scientific project aimed at building a new technology platform for nuclear power. Today, thermal neutron reactors are the main source of energy at nuclear power plants throughout the world, which use less than 1% of
U-235 isotope of mined natural uranium. Therefore, the spent nuclear fuel
(SNF) accumulation problem is not solved. We are however aiming at developing the reactors which would allow utilizing nearly all natural uranium in the nuclear fuel cycle, while solving the problem of the reuse of the accumulated SNF.
The benefits are obvious. Firstly, nuclear power generation will shift to uranium-238, reserves of which are nearly inexhaustible, instead of uranium-235, reserves of which are limited in the world. Secondly, 4th generation nuclear power technology will be created, which will systemically exclude accumulation of large amounts of SNF. In other words, a higher level of nuclear and radiation safety will be achieved through a radical reduction of SNF, and radiation waste reduction can be considered the main outcome of the project.
- The Baltic Power Plant in Kalingrad is intended to supply two thirds of its generated power to Germany, Poland and the Baltic States. What is the current status of the project and what international partners does Rosatom envisage?
- The main goal of the Baltic NPP construction is to secure energy independence for the Kaliningrad Region, which is currently forced to import energy. However, it would be a sin to miss the opportunity of using the unique location of this plant and apparent export potential. That is why we proposed to invite foreign investors to join the project.
We are open for cooperation and indeed potential investors have show great interest. I would remind you that in late April, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin and Italian president Silvio Berlusconi's met in Milan, with the Italian company ENEL signing a memorandum of cooperation with INTER RAO UES for a working relationship on Baltic NPP project. I think there won't just be a single investor in this project however; we are currently negotiating with other well-known companies as well.
The Baltic NPP construction project has already entered the practical phase.
On the 25th of February 2010 the first brick was laid for the new plant's foundation in the Neman District of Kaliningrad Region and preparatory works on the site are already fully underway. The information center has also been opened. I would also add that the regional employment centre is scrambling through piles of job applications from those who want to work on the construction! We plan to complete the first reactor for Baltic NPP in 2016.
The plant construction financing is on a clear-cut schedule: currently, in 2010, investments amount to RUB3.6bn and in 2011 they will be more than RUB8bn.
- Russia and China have been cooperating in the development of the BN-800 fast neutron reactor. What stage is the project at now and is it progressing?
- Yes, you see we are actually open for cooperation. Firstly, we have worked with China to build an experimental fast neutron reactor (CEFR - Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor) of 25 megawatt electric. Now, the construction of this experimental reactor is approaching its final stage. In May 2009, the reactor circuit was successfully filled with sodium. The reactor's first critical program and necessary trials are set for the middle of this year.
The Chinese side plans for the first power at the end of 2010.
Having appraised the potential success CEFR implementation and considering Russia's unique experience in developing sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor technology, our Chinese partners have suggested that we start cooperation to build a nuclear power plant with two 800-megawatt BN-type demonstration fast neutron reactors (CDFR - Chinese Demonstration Fast Reactor) in the Peoples Republic of China. Currently, Atomstroyexport is drafting documents for this project as a part of pre-project studies and CDFR construction justification.
- Given the great success of the arctic nuclear fleet, do you see potential for nuclear powered bulk carriers operating between specialist ports?
- Yes, last year our nuclear icebreaker fleet ran past its fifties! And there has not been a single serious event over half a century of operation!
So our unique technology - the Russian nuclear icebreaker fleet is the only one of its kind in the world - can be fully trusted. Still, a massive program for the construction of a socalled "atom-propelled" freight fleet is an undertaking for the future. Currently, the most critical task in this area is to build a new type of icebreaker that is doubledraught and capable of operating in both the northern rivers and Arctic Ocean. This icebreaker will have a substantially improved ice-breaking capacity as well as other new characteristics.
- Regarding government cooperation with the private sector for nuclear power generation, what projects can you refer to as examples?
- We are seriously moving forward on a joint project with En+ to develop a promising nuclear technology - the SVBR-100 reactor. We have also set up a fifty-fifty joint venture AKME-engineering. The SVBR-100 reactor technology will be developed by nuclear scientists and engineers of companies within the jurisdiction of SC Rosatom.
I would note that it is the first real example of attracting direct private investments in the nuclear industry. By the way, we anticipate these investments to be extremely profitable, since SVBR-100 could become the world's first commercial reactor cooled with liquid heavy metal. Therefore, SC Rosatom will strengthen its competitive advantages in the global market's fast reactor segment. Experts estimate that operation of a pilot commercial facility with a SVBR-100 reactor would yield up to US$160m annually through sales of electricity and heat.
- It has been a pleasure to speak with you. Concluding this interview, do you have any further comments for our readers?
- I would like to look forward to the real renaissance of the nuclear industry worldwide and invite PowerTec Russia & CIS Magazine readers to the 3rd Atomexpo which will take place in Moscow in the summer of 2011!