The initial loading of fuel into the reactor vessel has begun at unit 4 of the Kalinin nuclear power plant in Tver region of Russia.
The first fuel assembly was loaded into the new VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor at 9.45pm on 20 October, plant owner Rosenergoatom announced.
|A fuel assembly is lowered into the core of Kalinin 4 (Image: Rosenergoatom)
Once all 163 fuel assemblies have been loaded into the reactor core, the unit will aim to achieve first criticality and subsequently be operated at the minimum controlled power levels while tests are conducted. First power from the unit is expected in late November.
According to Leonid Martynovchenko, head of commissioning of Kalinin 4, even after the loading of the first fuel assemblies into the unit there is still much work to before it begins commercial operation. "So a sense of celebration is punctuated with the knowledge that an amount of work remains," he said.
Dummy fuel was previously loaded into the reactor in May 2011 so that tests of main plant systems at operational temperatures and pressures could be carried out. These began on 14 August and verified that coolant circuits and nuclear safety systems are functioning properly.
Kalinin 4 - constructed by Nizhny Novgorod-based Atomenergoproekt - has had a long gestation period, having been approved under the Soviet system in 1985. Construction began in August 1986 but stalled in 1991 while the plant was only 20% complete. The project then spent a decade on hold before a return to full construction began in late 2007. This was then accelerated somewhat by the use of pre-existing heavy components that had originally been intended for the then stalled Belene project in Bulgaria.
Kalinin 4 is a V-320 model VVER-1000 - the same as unit 3, which was approved in 1985 and eventually completed in 2004. Units 1 and 2 at the site are V-338 model VVER-1000s which began commercial operation in 1985 and 1987, respectively.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News