Iranian reactor completes latest pre-start tests

12 January 2010

Hydraulic testing of the secondary circuit at Iran's Bushehr reactor has been completed, taking the plant a step closer to its long-awaited start-up.

Bushehr 3 (ASE)
Bushehr: Getting ready to start (Image: AtomStroyExport)

The 915 MWe VVER pressurized water reactor is being constructed by Russian reactor builder AtomStroyExport, who reports that the secondary circuit has now been tested up to a pressure of 110 kg/cm2 in accordance with the power station's commissioning program. According to AtomStroyExport, the plant's primary circuit has already been hydraulically tested up to 250 kg/cm2, 40% above normal operating pressure. The testing has confirmed that main and auxiliary equipment in the two circuits are functioning efficiently within plant design parameters. Iranian plans call for the plant to be operational by the end of March 2010.

Iran established its nuclear power program as long ago as 1957 and Siemens KWU of Germany began work on two pressurized water reactors at Bushehr in 1975. However, the project was abandoned from 1979 until 1994, when Russia's Minatom and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) agreed to complete the first unit at the plant with a VVER-1000 unit, making use of the infrastructure already in place. The project has necessitated AtomStroyExport and its contractors to integrate the Russian reactor design with the existing on-site facilities, including fabrication of all the reactor components in Russia under a construction contract with AtomStroyExport. As a result, the finished Bushehr will be unique amongst the world's nuclear power plants.

The Bushehr VVER was originally scheduled to begin operation in late 2006 but the project has been beset with delays. The fuel for the reactor's initial core had been delivered to Iran by the end of January 2008, and as of September 2009 the reactor was reported to be 96% complete with testing under way and fuel loading expected by October 2009. For the first year of operations, the plant is to be operated by a Russian-Iranian joint venture. Of the 3600 workers on site, about 1100 are Iranian with the rest brought in from Russia. 

The Bushehr power plant stands outside the protracted international concern over Iran's program to develop its own uranium enrichment facilities. From the outset, Bushehr has been constructed under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) non-proliferation safeguards. It will use nuclear fuel supplied by Russia under IAEA seal, and this is to be returned to Russia after use. The plant will also operate under IAEA safeguards.

Despite its lack of apparent need to enrich its own uranium for nuclear power purposes, Iran has defied the UN Security Council by pressing on with its program to develop its own enrichment facilities. Plans for future nuclear power plants in Iran remain hazy, but the country followed its September 2009 revelation that it was working on a second enrichment facility by saying it plans to build a further ten enrichment plants.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News