Russian nuclear regulator Rostekhnadzor has extended the operating licence for unit 3 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Sverdlovsk district by a further five years. The licence for the BN-600 fast reactor, which began operating in 1981, was due to expire this year.
A large-scale modernisation programme has been under way at the unit since 2009, which has affected all areas of safety, operator Rosenergoatom said. This has included the installation of a second reactor emergency protection system, an emergency dampening system using an air heat exchanger and a back-up reactor control panel. In addition, a large amount of work has been carried out on the inspection and replacement of equipment, including the replacement of the unit's steam generators.
In 2010, the BN-600 was confirmed to be in compliance with the latest safety requirements and on that basis extension of the operating life was justified until 2025. However, Rostekhnadzor only extended its license for a further 10 years of operation, requesting additional justification for the operability of irreplaceable reactor components.
Investigations conducted since then by Russian nuclear engineering company OKBM Afrikantov, part of Atomenergomash, together with the Kurchatov Institute and FSUE CRI KM "Prometey" concluded that it is technically possible to continue operation of the reactor. Based on this, Rostekhnadzor has now extended the operating licence of the 560 MWe Beloyarsk 3 until 2025.
"We have completed work to extend the life of unit 3 until 2025," said Ivan Sidorov, director of the Beloyarsk plant. "In the course of our research, we proved that the technical parameters of the BN-600 allow us to operate it until 2040." He noted that JSC Atomproject is currently developing an investment project for an additional extension of the unit's operating life. This work is expected to be completed by 2024, after which Rosenergoatom will apply to Rostekhnadzor for a licence extension until 2040.
The sodium-cooled BN-series fast reactor plans are part of Rosatom's Proryv, or 'Breakthrough', project to develop fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle whose mixed oxide (MOX) fuel will be reprocessed and recycled. In addition to the BN-600 reactor, the 789 MWe BN-800 fast neutron reactor - constructed as Beloyarsk unit 4 - entered commercial operation in October 2016. This is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the larger BN-1200 being developed by OKBM Afrikantov.