Nuclear fuel loading into the core of the VVER-12000 reactor has begun at Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant in central Russia, according to a company press statement issued Wednesday.
The same power units will be equipped at the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plant El-Dabaa.
The project is being carried out in the framework of the first criticality programme that is now running in Unit 6 of Novovoronezh Phase 2, Unit 1, the statement read.
Rostechnadzor Permit granted a reactor operating licence to the company on 23 March for work to commence.
“The first phase of the first criticality programme of the power unit made to the AES-2006 design was preceded by a number of activities, in particular, transportation of shrouds with fuel assemblies (FAs) from the fresh fuel storage to the reactor department, as well as an examination to determine if the personnel and equipment are prepared for operations,” the statement read. “It was only after these preparations that the first assembly was loaded on 24 March, loading entered its active phase on 25 March.”
The plant’s chief engineer coordinated with start-up scientific supervisor of the NRC Kurchatov Institute, general designer of the reactor OKB Gidropress, and Atomtekhenergo Firm Federal State Unitary Enterprise, which approved the procedure to carry out the first routine loading of the reactor core.
Novovoronezh plant manager Vladimir Povarov said that safety is the main requirement of the new power unit start-up.
The stage of first criticality targets ensuring additional safety, Povarov added. Fuel assembly dummies were loaded into the core and the neutron flux monitoring instrumentation was installed.
He explained that this type of loading pattern is radically different from those used at pilot power units before.
“It is not standard load at all. We load nuclear fuel into the core, which is partly filled with fuel assembly dummies, for the first time, to enhance safety,” he said. “I’m sure that this power unit will become a model for reference and will facilitate dynamic development of nuclear power.”
Leading engineer from the Novovoronezh branch of JSC Atomtekhenergo and head on-duty for the first standard loading Fedor Tatarkin said the loading operation is structured so that, at the first stage, fresh fuel is comprised of about one-third of all loaded assemblies, the rest are FA dummies.
Tatarkin noted that the fuel will be loaded one-by-one in the remaining cells, instead of fuel assembly dummies, in accordance with the operating schedule.
On the whole, the first criticality programme of a power unit includes: delivery, the reactor assembly, attaining rated parameters, necessary criticality experiments, rendering the reactor critical, and running experiments to confirm design data of the fuel charge.
All further stages will be related to getting permits from Rostechnadzor for the subsequent stages: the reactor assembling, switching on reactor coolant pumps needed to render the reactor hot, and conducting a set of tests at minimum controlled power.