Nuclear energy has a very long history in Russia. The first reactor (with a tiny 5 MWe capacity) started generating power in 1954 and was the first reactor in the world to deliver electricity to the grid. Two main reactor designs were developed (the RBMK
, which is about the same thing as a Western PWR
) and with lots of skilled engineers and high flying plans Russia was seen as a pioneer in the nuclear industry and by some as the world leader.
Then the Atommash reactor factory sank into the Volga mud, the Soviet submarine reactors melted down one after another, and as the coup de grace to the Soviet nuclear industry, Chernobyl blew up. After the fall of the Soviet union funds for nuclear power (and for everything else) were scarce and as a result only two Russian reactors were completed during the 90's. But since then things have changed. Reactors exports have restarted and so has domestic construction. Since the new millennium two new reactors have gone online. Plant efficiency has increased radically. Power demand is growing fast.
Once again there are immense plans for nuclear power in Russia.
Commissioned in 2004, reactor 3 of Kalinin nuclear power plant is a source of hope to the Russian nuclear industry.
With 31 reactors and a total capacity of almost 22.000 MW working at about 75 % capacity factor, Russia is the number five nuclear energy country in the world, annually generating about 140 TWh of nuclear electricity, 15 % of demand. In addition nuclear power supplies a little more than 2 TWh district heating.
Of these 31 reactors 11 are of the evil RBMK kind. Another 4 are tiny 12 MW RBMK cogenerators in a village in Siberia. Really, I am not kidding you. The remaining 15 reactors are VVER type, but the oldest 6 (2 of the VVER-440/213 type and especially the 4 VVER-440/230 type reactors) are a bit dangerous. The 9 VVER-1000 reactors are fine installations and reach an almost Western level of safety. But hey, at least all the VVER's lack the insane reactor physics of the RBMK and have nice and hard containment structures (even if they, according to Wikipedia, do not survive aircraft crashes). The last reactor is the 560 MWe liquid metal fast breeder BN-600 at Beloyarsk.
What does the future of nuclear power look like in Russia? There are three important developments. The most important, and also the most easily overlooked, is the astounding increase in plant capacity factors. Between 1998 and 2003 capacity factors increased from 56 % to 76 %. Let me say that again. Capacity factors increased from 56 % to 76 %. This means that nuclear power generation increased 36 % in five years, without building any new reactors! While Russia will probably not reach Western capacity factors of 90+ % with it's current plants, Rodina is aiming for 85 %. If that goal is reached it will be a very important development.
The second development is the ongoing process of life extensions in the reactor fleet. A Russian reactor is licensed for 30 years and if one wants to run it longer you need to do some major refurbishing. And this is exactly what the Russians are doing. Twelve of the oldest reactors are to undergo life extensions and of these, at least three extensions are already completed. This is obviously a good thing for the Russians who can cram the most value out of their plants, but it also carries a downside as several of these plants are RBMK units. So if you thought we would be rid of those devilish contraptions in the near future, think again.
The third big development are the very extensive plans for new reactors. Due to funding issues and the general confusion of everything in Russia, six reactors are more or less under construction. Four are 1000 MW VVER's, one is the BN-800 fast breeder and the last one is Kursk-5, a RBMK. It's not sure if and when these reactors will be completed. The confusion is especially big over one of the VVER's and the breeder. The RBMK will hopefully (and likely) not be completed at all.
In the long term the Russian plans are even bigger than the Ukrainian ones. According to Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Russia needs (and will hence build?) 40 new reactors until 2030. Currently there are 24 reactor planned or on order until 2020, on top of the 6 reactor that are more or less under construction.
Building all these plants will be no trouble for Russia, as long as there is money. And with all those ever more valuable oil and gas exports there should be plenty of money to go around.
But why are the Russians so interested in building nuclear power plants? Don't they have lots of oil and gas? Well yes, they do. And that might be one explanation for the Russian interest in nuclear. As Germany dismantles it's reactors and replace them with natural gas plants German demand for Russian gas increases. This means that either Russian gas production must increase or Russian gas consumption must decrease. Replacing the gas plants with nuclear power is a natural choice (except for the Germans who are doing the opposite). Also Gazprom makes like five times as much money selling gas to Europe instead of putting it on the subsidised Russian gas market. Further, electricity demand is growing 3 % per annum and lots of power plants are old and will soon be decommissioned.
If everything goes according to plan, the future of nuclear power in Russia is radiating.
The world's largest currently operating fast breeder is located at Beloyarsk.
Over and over again the Turkish elites have tried to implement nuclear power in Turkey. Every time they have failed either due to economic, political or environmental issues. This is, if my calculations are correct, effort number six (!).
This time the plans call for a 100 MW pilot plant to be constructed (or completed?) by 2009. After that 5000 MW of nuclear capacity (built at a site in Sinop on the Black sea coast) is supposed to come online from 2012. If those dates are correct, the Turks should better hurry since it takes at least 4-5 years to complete even a single reactor.
Another interesting thing is that the 5000 MW (originally stated at 4500 MW) should be generated in three "power plants". Since we know that there is only going to be one power plant site we can probably infer that they are looking at three really big reactors. Let's see what reactors designs are powerful enough to generate one third of 5000 MW or 4500 MW.
One third of 4500 MW is 1500 MW and one third of 5000 MW is 1667 MW. There are only a few reactor designs that are this powerful. They are as follows:
- Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). 1700 MW. A couple of 1350 MW versions are operating in Japan.
- Mitsubishi and Westinghouse Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (APWR). 1500 MW. Never built.
- Korean APR-1400. 1450 MW so it is just a little too small. Never built, but smaller versions of it operate all over South Korea.
- European pressurised water reactor (EPR). 1600-1750 MW. One under construction in Finland, one on order in France.
- The extra big General Electric Economic Simplified Boiling water reactor (ESBWR). 1550 MW, but the ordinary one is just 1390 MW. A development of the Japanese ABWR. A couple of the standard size reactors are going to be ordered in the US. As of yet the extra big versions is not certified in the US.
- Russian VVER-1500. Under development.
What is most interesting is that the reactor that seems most popular for US nuclear new build
, the 1100 MW Westinghouse AP1000 seems not to be an alternative.
Of the above alternatives I think we can discount several designs. Basically, if it hasn't been built anywhere I don't think the Turks are going to volunteer being guinea pigs. The ABWR has never been built for 1700 MW so it's not an option. The APWR will not start operations (in Tsuruga) until 2014-2015. The first APR-1400 will not start before 2013. No one is planning to build the 1550 MW ESBWR. And the first VVER-1500 will not start until 2012-2013 at the earliest.
Only one design remains. The EPR. Maybe we will see Turkey trying to bribe itself into the EU by buying EPR's.
Nuclear power has been big in Bulgaria for quite some time. A research ractor was built in 1962 and the first power reactor began generating in 1981. Today Bulgaria's four reactors (all located at the Kozloduy site on the Donau) generate almost half of the country's power, and considerable amounts of power are exported to neighbouring countries.
Originally Bulgaria had six reactors, but two of the four VVER-440/230-type 400 MW reactors have been closed due to EU demands and security reasons. The second pair of VVER-440/230 reactors are supposed to go offline in 2006, but the Bulgarian authorities have decided this will not happen until Bulgaria gets to join the EU. This second pair of reactors have underwent major security improvements and according to several international reports reach a Western level of safety. The last pair of reactors are VVER-1000 reactors without any issues.
When it comes to new nuclear, Bulgaria does not only talk the talk but also walks the walk. The partially completed VVER-1000 at the Belene site (also on the Donau) will be redesigned and completed and another more modern VVER-1000 will be added. Decisions on the reactor supplier will be taken this June.
Two of the reactors at Kozloduy nuclear power plant.
Nuclear power in Romania is strange and if I should speculate I guess it's Ceascescu's fault. He always had strange ideas and wanted to be different from the Soviet union and the other satellite states.
So, first of all there were grand plans. The country would build thirteen reactors! Because of some other strange idea the reactors should not be a Russian design, they would be a Canadian design, the CANDU reactor. Construction of four reactors began, but only one was ever completed and that happened as late as in 1996. It generates 10 % of Romania's electricity at quite good capacity factors, usually 85-90 %.
The nuclear plans in Romania today might not be as grand as the old plans, but at least there are some. The second CANDU reactor at Cernavoda is supposed to be completed in 2007. Reactor 3 will hopefully be online in 2011 and reactor 4 and 5 should be completed in 2020. The only thing that is sure is that reactor 2 will start generating pretty soon.
The sole operating reactor at Cernavoda nuclear power plant.
To be continued...