Russia nuclear energy company Rosatom said on Friday that loading of nuclear fuel into its advanced VVER-12000 reactor at the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant has just commenced. It is carried out in the framework of the first “criticality” program that is now running at Unit 6 at Novovoronezh (Phase II, Unit 1).
The plant personnel have started working based on the operating license granted by Rostechnadzor.
Some of the key activities prior to the design of this important AES-2006 included the transportation of shrouds with fuel assemblies (FAs) from the fresh fuel storage to the reactor department and checking out the readiness of personnel and equipment. It was only after these were achieved that the first assembly was loaded.
Loading has since entered its active phase.
These procedures are carried out after approvals are given by the plant’s chief engineer, with accompanying coordination of the start-up scientific supervisor NRC Kurchatov Institute, the general designer of the reactor OKB Gidropress, and Atomtekhenergo.
Safety is the main focus in any start-up unit, said Novovoronezh Plant Manager Vladimir Povarov. At the very first stage of “criticality”, stakeholders have to ensure additional safety, that fuel assembly dummies are loaded into the core and the neutron flux monitoring instrumentation are installed.
He also explained that such loading pattern are radically different from those which had been used at other pilot power units before. “This is not a 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.
The Plant Manager gave his assurance that this power unit would become a reference one and would facilitate dynamic development of nuclear power.
Fedor Tatarkin, leading engineer from the Novovoronezh Branch of JSC Atomtekhenergo and Head On-Duty at the first standard loading, said that the loading operation was structured so that at the first stage, fresh fuel comprises about one third of all loaded assemblies. The rest are fuel assembly dummies.
Then, the fuel will be loaded in steps instead of fuel assembly dummies in the remaining cells in accordance with the operating schedule, Rosatom said.