Belarus will soon be gifted with its first nuclear power plant. The Belarusian nuclear power plant is currently under construction and is expected to be operational from 2019. The project is financed by Russia, and Atomstroy export is building the 2,400 MWe plant, with two VVER-1200 reactors. ASE Group, a Rosatom’s engineering division, acts as the general designer and the general contractor as part of the project to build the Belarusian nuclear power plant. The Belarusian nuclear power plant is being built using the Russian standard Generation III+ design AES-2006 near Ostrovets, Grodno Oblast. The Generation III+ design is fully compliant with international safety norms and recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
As many as 41 subcontractors, including 23 Belarusian ones and 18 Russian ones, are busy building the Belarusian nuclear power plant. The number of construction workers is close to 7,000 people, BelTA learned from Press Secretary of the Belarusian Energy Ministry Zhanna Zenkevich during a media tour of the nuclear power plant for Belarusian and Russian reporters on 28 March.
The project will address the power demand in Belarus, which has scarce domestic fuel resources. It aims to diversify energy resources, replace the import of natural fossil fuels (five million tonnes of fuel-equivalent a year), reduce electric power production costs, and increase the country’s capacity to export electric power.
The project will further generate approximately 8,000 jobs during the peak construction period and 1,000 new permanent jobs, when it starts operations.
The Russian company OAO NIKIMT Atomstroy had trained and certified welders for the Belarusian enterprises involved in building the Belarusian nuclear power plant. As many as 20 specialists have completed the training course and have passed the exam. “The construction of any nuclear power plant requires a considerable volume of welding operations. The Belarusian nuclear power plant is built in line with Russian norms and requirements, which means that all the welding operations are to be carried out in accordance with Russian rules for the nuclear power engineering industry,” stressed Vladimir Popov, Deputy Director General for Manufacturing of OAO NIKIMT Atomstroy. The training course has allowed the Belarusians to fully prepare for welding operations at the reactor.
Work in Progress
General construction operations are nearly finished at the first unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. Electric installation operations and heat systems installation operations are in full swing. The reactor pressure vessel of the first unit was fully installed on 1 April 2017. The welding of the main circulation line was finished on 7 September 2017. A turbine unit, process equipment, and pipelines are being installed in the turbine building.
Work is in progress to build the internal protective shell in the reactor building of the second unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. The reactor pressure vessel of the second unit was installed in December 2017. Steam generators were installed in their designated positions on 12 January. Work to install equipment is in progress in the turbine building of the second unit.
Main circulation line of the plant’s second unit welded
The welding process took 70 days and became a new reference point for fulfilling similar operations at future nuclear reactors. All the 28 joints of the main circulation line were welded in this period of time. The seams were overlaid with austenitic stainless steel to protect them against corrosion. Sergei Olontsev, ASE Group Senior Vice President for Managing Russian projects, said that the most complicated operation had been finished in a record short period of time thanks to proper organization of the process and step-by-step audit of all the operations.
The welding of the main circulation line is important because the schedule for the hydraulic testing of the reactor unit depends on the date the welding process is finished. The welding of the main circulation line is one of the first civil engineering projects of Rosatom’s best practices system. The system was first used to weld the main circulation line of the fourth unit of the Kalinin nuclear power plant in 2010. Over 70 proposals to improve various practices had been taken into account before the welding of the main circulation line of the second unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant began. The main circulation line connects the primary coolant equipment: the reactor pressure vessel, steam generators, and main circulation pumps. The main circulation line is designed to enable the flow of the heat transfer agent — water as hot as 350C under pressures as high as 17.6MPa.
Steam generators installed at second Belarus unit
All four steam generators was installed during January 2018 at unit 2 of the nuclear power plant under construction in Ostrovets in Belarus. Each 330-tonne steam generator was lifted onto the ramp extension and moved on rails via the equipment airlock into the reactor building, news agency BelTA said. Then a polar crane placed the steam generators into position. The Belarusian nuclear power plant is being built using the Russian VVER-1200 AES-2006 design.
AEM-technology welded the upper half of the reactor vessel VVER-1200 for Unit 2
Volgodonsk branch of AEM-technology, (part of machine building division of ROSATOM – JSC Atomenergomash) welded the upper half of the reactor vessel VVER-1200 for Unit 2 of the plant. The operation to assembly of parts of the half reactor vessel (two shells of nozzle and flange zone) took place before the welding operation. Uniqueness of such operation is that the allowed high difference for all parts installed relative to each other was only 0.5mm. The operation to automatic welding of circumferential rings started after the half reactor assembling. Welding process of two welds carried out over 15 days with the continuing heating of weld joint zone. The heat temperature was above 200°C. After welding, the structure was then placed to furnace for heat treatment at a temperature of 300°C to obtain the required properties of the metal. Welded joints of upper half of the reactor was inspected and prepared for inner anti-corrosion overlay welding. The reactor is a vertical cylinder with an elliptical head inside of which the reactor core and the Internals are located. Reactor was hermetically sealed with the lid in which the actuators and reactor control and protection mechanisms are installed. The lid also included nozzles used to feed cables from internal reactor control sensors. The attachment of lid to casing was carried out with the studs. The upper part of casing has coolant inlet and outlet nozzles as well as emergency coolant inlet nozzles in case of cladding failure.
Main circulation line of the plant’s first reactor welded
One of the most important stages of the project — the welding of a main circulation line — has been finished in the reactor compartment of the first unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. The installation of the main circulation line began on 4 June to end on 21 August. Specialists welded all the 28 butts over the course of 78 days. The operations were controlled step by step. The welding of the pearlitic part of the main circulation line over the period of 78 days instead of the standard 84 days confirms that one of the most complicated stages in building a nuclear power-generating unit is now virtually automated, stressed Dmitry Romanets, director for building the Belarusian nuclear power plant at ASE Group. The main circulation line of the second unit of the second Novovoronezh nuclear power plant was welded within 72 days. That time was used as a reference point for the welding operation in Belarus. In essence Rosatom’s engineering division has set a new industry standard, which provides for completing this operation within less than 80 days. Specialists of the Russian company Energospetsmontazh intend to complete overlaying the seams inside the main circulation line with austenitic stainless steel within days. The operation will protect the seams from the aggressive environment. The main circulation line is 850mm in diameter and is over 130m long. Its walls are 70mm thick. The line connects the main equipment in the primary coolant circuit: the reactor, steam generators, and main circulation pumps. The main circulation line is designed to enable the flow of the heat transfer agent — water as hot as 350C under pressures as high as 17.6MPa.
Safety at Site
The safety of the construction of the nuclear power plant in Belarus is constantly monitored. The safety depends on every person involved in building it. It is a broad notion, and thus relies on the technological solutions made by the designer and on every bricklayer and welding operator. Any poor-quality welding seam can lead to violations of the technology. Therefore, a special interagency working group has been created. It unites representatives of all the regulatory agencies. Matters of quality and safety are discussed at every session.
As per the reports from belsat.eu, the circle of potential buyers of electricity from the Belarusian NPP is shrinking. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland spoke about the lack of interest in electricity from Belarus. The first power unit of the Belarusian NPP is planned to start operation in a year. But the government still doesn’t say where the electricity produced in Belarus will be sold. Almost all western neighbors of Belarus have refused to buy it. Finland joined them the other day, claiming that they plan to finish the construction of their own NPP Olkiluoto in the coming years.