Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2007 > June 09, 2007 > VVER-type Reactors : Some Irrefutable Facts

Mainstream, Vol XLV No 25

VVER-type Reactors : Some Irrefutable Facts

Saturday 9 June 2007, by Narayani Menon

For long in several circles in our country Russian equipment have been regarded as inferior to those of the West in different realms of scientific-technological activity. This perception has persisted over the years even if it is devoid of any foundation whatsoever. Russia, like the erstwhile Soviet Union, happens to be one of the few countries which are frontrunners in the phenomenal technological progress our planet has witnessed in the course of the last century—its breathtaking successes in the field of space exploration bearing lasting testimony to its enormous achievements in the short span of less than a century.

Lately the VVER-type Russian light-water reactors have proved their worth by their wide applicability the world over. There are four such reactors in the Czech Republic in particular functioning in the Dykovany and Mokhovtse nuclear power plants. In Hungary, four power generating units for the Paksh power plant were built with VVER-440 reactors. In Finland, there are two VVER-440 reactors in the Loviisa power plant. Currently VVER-reactor based power units for nuclear stations are under construction in China, Iran and Bulgaria. All these reactors have won positive response not only from the countries that are using them but also the IAEA experts. What is more, Central and East European states have exhorted the European Union to extend the use of these reactors beyond their date of expiry in their respective nations.

International experts highly evaluate the quality and reliability of the Russian manufactured main components for nuclear plants—nuclear reactors, high pressure capacities, pipelines and turbines—for these meet the highest security requirements and IAEA standards. Ian Hore-Lacy, a spokesman of the World Nuclear Association, believes that Russian reactors utilised in China’s Tiangwang power plant not only approximate Western high-technology designs in the real sense but even excel them in some ways.

REACTORS of the VVER-type do not possess the processing characteristics peculiar to the water-graphite reactor that was used in Chernobyl; hence these reactors preclude the possibility of accidents similar to the Chernobyl tragedy at the construction stage itself. The world science community is well aware of this fact. Besides, the operational security of the Russian VVER-1000 reactors is ensured by the multilevel security systems which do not permit a technical malfunction to culminate in a disaster. According to the IAEA, Russia ranks third in terms of the security rate of power plants across the globe, next only to Japan and Germany. Countless system checks of the VVER-type reactors carried out by the IAEA have established their full compliance with world standards.

Expert assessment by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) has found the Russian power plants to be most reliable worldwide—the level of power plant security having been measured by the number of unscheduled breaks (failures) per 7000 hours. By this yardstick the Russian figure is 0.1 as against 1.0 in the case of France. As of today the number of plant failures in Russia is ten times less than in France, six times less than in Britain, and four times less than in the US.

A VVER-1000 reactor-based power plant project has successfully undergone a number of international examinations by the US and European experts and has been proved to meet global security requirements. A special group of analysts from the US Department of Energy (DoE), having conducted meticulous dissection of such a reactor, presented to the American Administration their results in the form of report. On the basis of numerous checking calculations of all normal and malfunction regimes at work, this “White Book on VVER” concluded that the VVER-1000 reactors conform to the prevailing security conditions.

Such valuable expert opinion on these reactors are indeed beyond dispute.

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