A full-scale simulator for unit 3 of Russia's Smolensk nuclear power plant has begun operation. The RBMK is to be upgraded to allow extended operation.
A simulator for Smolensk 3 had been planned from when the unit first began operating in 1990 but for various reasons was delayed. Workers at unit 3 have so far been trained using the simulator for unit 2.
Work on the unit's own full-scale simulator finally began in 2011 and was carried out under the framework of the investment project to extend the operating life of Smolensk 3. The design of the simulator has taken into account future upgrades planned for the unit's control room.
The simulator features a video wall and touch panels and can be used to simulate different modes of operation of the unit: from normal operation to beyond design basis accidents. It was developed by the Russian Research Institute for Nuclear Power Plant Operation (VNIIAES) – a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear enterprise Rosatom.
Chief engineer of the Smolensk plant and chairman of the acceptance committee Alexander Vassiliev commented, "I can say with confidence that the full-scale simulator for Smolensk unit 3, which we put into operation, corresponds to the highest technologies of the 21st century. Its application will open new opportunities for high-quality training of operating personnel of our plant."
The existing Smolensk reactors are set to be replaced by a new plant, Smolensk Phase II, which will consist of two to four VVER-1200 reactors. Licensing activities are already under way, and first concrete is planned for unit 1 in 2017, with the unit becoming operational in 2022. The second Smolensk II unit is expected to start operation in 2024.
Smolensk's three RBMK reactors should remain in operation until the new plant starts to come online under a RUB 45 billion ($1.3 billion) modernisation program announced in 2012. Extensive refurbishment work has already been completed at unit 1, which received a ten-year licence extension in 2012 and is now licensed to operate until the end of 2022. Similar work is expected to be completed at unit 2 in 2015, followed by upgrading of the more modern unit 3.