Novovoronezh 3 was shut down on 25 December, becoming the oldest VVER-440 reactor to enter decommissioning. Since starting operations in December 1971, the unit produced 118.67 terawatt hours of electricity - more than half of the combined annual production of all of Russia's nuclear power plants, said Rosenergoatom, the nuclear power plant operator subsidiary of state nuclear corporation Rosatom.
The Novovoronezh site - on the River Don and 42 km (26 miles) south of Voronezh - consists of VVER-210 unit 1, VVER-365 unit 2, VVER-440 units 3 and 4, VVER-1000 unit 5 and VVER-1200 unit 6. Units 1 and 2 were shut down in 1988 and 1990. Unit 4 is expected to be shut down next year.
Rosenergoatom said Novovoronezh 3 was "the first of a dynasty" of the VVER-440 design, of which six units were built in Russia – two at Novovoronezh and four at Kola - and 29 overseas - in Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine.
The company estimates that the market for decommissioning VVER-400 units abroad could be worth up to $29 billion. Novovoronezh 3 will be a test case for such work, it added.
Unit 3 underwent upgrade work between 1999 and 2002 and a 15-year licence extension was obtained for it to continue operations until the end of this year.