Forging ahead with VVER-TOI, but Crimea creates uncertainty1 April 2014
The political fallout from annexation of the Crimea by Russia has created considerable uncertainties for Rosatom’s nuclear technology export ambitions.Among potential casualties is the long term plan to build and operate pressurised water reactors of the VVER-TOI type in the UK.
Only a few months ago, in November, Rosatom (the Russian state nuclear corporation), which saw the United Kingdom market as potentially attractive, participated in a seminar in London on the VVER-TOI and the UK regulatory process. This was part of a familiarisation and confidence building process envisaged under the memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy co-operation signed by Rosatom and the UK government's Department of Energy and Climate Change in September.
At the same time Rolls-Royce was awarded a nuclear engineering services contract by Rosatom to undertake engineering and safety assessment work ahead of the VVER-TOI potentially entering the first stage of the UK's nuclear regulatory approval process, the Generic Design Assessment. There was also an agreement signed between Rolls, Finnish utility Fortum and Rosatom to undertake a feasibility assessment of VVER technology as a proposition in the UK nuclear new build market.
The VVER-TOI - the T and O said to stand, somewhat enigmatically, for typical (ie, standardised) and optimised, with the I referring to use of advanced information management systems - can be seen as the culmination of experience to date with Russian VVER (pressurised water reactor) technology, building on the AES-2006 (VVER-1200) design, but with slightly increased power rating, from 3200 MWt to 3300 MWt (about 1225 MWe).
The VVER-TOI is classified as Gen III+ and includes some design features that differentiate markedly from previous VVER design practice, not least in terms of layout and pressure vessel design, as outlined by Vadim Berkovich of Gidropress at the November seminar (see illustrations).
In January 2014, OMZ Special Steels, part of OMZ Group (controlled by Gazprombank), reported it had successfully produced a large forged shell as envisaged in the new design for the "active zone" of the VVER-TOI pressure vessel.
The trial forging has a weight of 420 tonnes and is made of steel described as "15?2??F? grade class 1". The development effort is being carried out in co-operation with OMZ-Izhora, JSC CNIITMASH, and Central Research Institute for Structural Materials Prometei, with final manufacturing of the test shell expected to be completed by June 2014.