Russia’s first new VVER-1200 reactor is officially in commercial operation

Russia has announced the start of commercial operation of its first VVER-1200 reactor, unit 1 of the Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant.

Also known as Novovoronezh 6, the unit was connected to the network in early August last year, but Rosatom said this week that it had officially started commercial operation on 27 February. This followed approval to include power generated by the unit in the country’s wholesale electricity market, the state nuclear corporation said.

Novovoronezh 6 is a VVER 1200/392M pressurised water reactor unit with a design net capacity of 1114 MWe. It is the first of two such units at Novovoronezh II – the lead project for the deployment of the AES-2006 design incorporating a Gidropress-designed PWR, an evolutionary development from the VVER-1000. Construction of Novovoronezh II units 1 and 2 – or Novovoronezh units 6 and 7 – began in June 2008 and July 2009, respectively. The original Novovoronezh site nearby already hosts three operating reactors and two that are being decommissioned.

By the time of entering commercial operation, the unit had produced 1.691 TWh of power.

Compared to “conventional” VVER-1000 AES-2006 units, the first Novovoronezh II reactor has a number of advantages, which significantly increases its economic performance and safety, Rosatom said. In this way, the reactor features a 20% increase in electrical capacity of 1200 MWe. In addition, the life of the main equipment – the reactor pressure vessel and the steam generators – has doubled, from 30 to 60 years. The high-level of automation and the introduction of new technological solutions, means the number of personnel involved in the reactor’s operation has decreased, compared with a VVER-1000 unit, by 25-30%.

The unit fully complies with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s post-Fukushima requirements, Rosatom said. The main feature of the technology is the use of additional passive safety systems that do not require the intervention of nuclear power plant personnel. The design includes passive heat removal from the reactor, hydrogen recombiners and a core melt trap, or core catcher.

The Russian abbreviation VVER stands for ‘water-water energy reactor’ (i.e. water-cooled water-moderated energy reactor). The design is a type of pressurised water reactor (PWR). The main distinguishing features of the VVE compared to other PWRs are:

  • Horizontal steam generators
  • Hexagonal fuel assemblies
  • No bottom penetrations in the pressure vessel
  • High-capacity pressurisers providing a large reactor coolant inventory

Future versions

A number of designs for future versions of the VVER have been made:

  • MIR-1200 (Modernised International Reactor) – designed in conjunction with Czech company ŠKODA JS to satisfy European requirements
  • VVER-1500 – VVER-1000 with dimensions increased to produce 1500 MWe gross power output, but design shelved in favor of the evolutionary VVER-1200
  • VVER-TOI is aimed at development of typical optimized informative-advanced project of a new generation III+ Power Unit based on VVER technology, which meets a number of target-oriented parameters using modern information and management technologies.
  • VVER-1700 Supercritical water reactor version.
  • VVER-600 two cooling circuit version of the VVER-1200 designed for smaller markets, authorised to be built by 2030 at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant.

In 2014, Russian researchers looked at refining the previously developed concept of the 1700 MW(e) VVER-SKD reactor. They recommended a plan for top-priority supercritical reactor research, formulation of a technical mission and proceeding to the design of an experimental 30 MW reactor.