The program of reaching the design capacity for unit 2 of the first nuclear power plant (NPP) in Belarus started last week, according to a statement by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.
The second unit of the Belarus NPP, being built with the assistance of Rosatom, attained its first criticality, or controlled self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction, in the last week of March 2023.
“The stage of low power testing is one of the most important in the program of a nuclear facility commissioning. The program provides for a gradual increase of unit power to the rated level of 100 percent, with dynamic testing in various operating modes and shutdown of the main equipment, including a check of the blackout operating mode,” a Rosatom statement said.
“Commissioning is the final stage of construction of new NPP power units. At this stage, compliance of power unit systems and equipment with the design is verified. The process of commissioning consists of several consecutive phases: pre-commissioning and adjustment works, physical start-up, power start-up and pilot operation,” the statement added.
The second unit was earlier connected to the grid and the power will gradually be increased to up to 50 percent in the coming days. Specialists will simultaneously carry out tests to verify the compliance of the thermal performance of the main equipment in the reactor and turbine compartments of the power unit with the design values. The unit will then see its power increased in further stages – with tests along the way – until it reaches 100 percent. Commissioning of the second unit is scheduled for later this year.
The 1,200 MW first unit of the Belarus NPP, equipped with the state-of-the-art VVER-1200 reactor, started commercial operations in June 2021.
“The first nuclear construction in a fraternal Belarus laid the basis for further development of Russian-Belarusian interaction both in the power industry and in new areas of the Republic’s economy, including nuclear medicine and digital technologies, raising them to a completely new level,” Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev said at the launch of the programme to reach the second unit’s design capacity, where he was present along with Belarus’ Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko.
The VVER-1200 reactor has several advantages when compared to the previous generation VVER-1000 reactor, including a unique combination of active and passive safety systems. VVER-1200 power units are equipped with a “core catcher” – a device designed to contain and cool the melt of the reactor core in the event of an accident – as well as other passive safety systems capable of operating without the participation of personnel in the event of a complete power outage, according to Rosatom.
The Belarus NPP, located at Ostrovets, is the first VVER-1200 project to become operational outside Russia. Once fully completed, the twin unit 2,400 MW project is expected to supply over 18 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of low-carbon electricity to the country’s national grid every year.
“Complete commissioning of the second power unit of the station and bringing both units to the nominal capacity will allow us to save from 4 to 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas and generate 18-19 billion kWh of electricity,” Likhachev added.
The VVER-1200 reactor is also the backbone of the Rosatom export order book consisting of 34 units across 11 countries, including Belarus, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt, China and Hungary.