Major renovation of the reactor units at Kola NPP in Murmansk region began last week with the goal of extending the service life and increasing the safety of the ageing plant. Unit 3 of the NPP has been turned off for 50 days. In that time, restorative annealing will be conducted on the reactor vessel. Then the remaining units will be renovated. The entire process will take 249 days.
Kola NPP provides about 60% of the power for Murmansk region and provides power to the Republic of Karelia as well. It began operating in 1973. Between 1973 and 1984, four VVER-440 reactor units were installed there with total installed electrical capacity of 1,760 MW.
In February 2016, the service life of Unit 3 was extended to 2026, after more than 100 safety upgrades were made at a cost of 1.5 billion rubles (US$25.8 million) in preparation. In 2014, Unit 4 was given a 25-year extension to 2039. Rosenergoatom reported in that year it was considering 15-year extensions at Unit 1 and Unit 2 to 2033 and 2034 respectively. The nuclear plant operator announced a tender in March 2016 for work to extend the operating life at Unit 1. Vasily Omelchuk, the director of the Kola NPP, has signalled his intention to secure further extensions for Kola’s third and fourth reactors to 2041 and 2044.
The Kola NPP produced 997,200 MWh of electricity in February, an increase of 55,900 MWh year on year.
In 2013, the Murmansk regional government announced that it had applied for federal support to build a second Kola NPP. There was a risk, it said, of an energy crisis in the region in 2018-2019, when units 1 and 2 are being renovated.
The plant’s administration announced plans at the end of last year to raise the output of unit 3 to 107% of its capacity. The Bellona organisation objected to that move, expressing doubts about the safety of the plant and claiming that the region had an energy surplus of 400-500 MW, while the nearby HPP, one of 17 in the region, was running at 50% capacity.
Bellona attributed the high energy production to the region’s long-time hopes of using excess capacity to attract an energy-intensive industrial investor.