Rolls-Royce advises Russia how to approach regulators overseas

01 December 2015

Rolls-Royce plans to help Rosatom avoid falling foul of regulators by sharing the lessons it has learned from producing instrumentation and control (I&C) systems for the nuclear power industry. Stéphane Lessi, the British engineering group's I&C customer business director, said yesterday that this advice will assist the Russian nuclear corporation in its Hanhikivi 1 and Paks II projects in Finland and Hungary, but will also apply to VVER modernization and construction projects in other Wenra markets.

Wenra – the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association – is a non-governmental organization comprising senior nuclear safety regulators from across the European Union and Switzerland.

Speaking at the Atomex-Europe 2015 conference in Budapest, Lessi said that I&C accounts for just 8% of an investment in a nuclear new build project - with safety I&C systems a smaller fraction still - but recent examples in China, Scandinavia and the USA have shown that a failure to meet regulatory requirements in this field can lead to cost overruns and delays.

"I&C is such a sensitive area in the licensing of a new build nuclear power plant, especially in Western European countries that we feel this is where we will have a very interesting cooperation with Rosatom in its export market," Lessi said. Rolls-Royce is not "tied to" a single reactor design and this independence means it can maintain the flexibility of an I&C design and adapt it to local regulations in any given market, he said.

"We can rely on a long history of delivering large and complex I&C projects, especially for the VVER fleet of reactors, and we pride ourselves on delivering all of these on time, which for I&C related systems is quite a challenge," Lessi said.

Rolls-Royce upgraded the main safety I&C architecture of the four VVER units at the Dukovany plant in the Czech Republic and is working on the neutron instrumentation system of units 3 and 4 at Slovakia's Mochovce plant. Last year, Finnish utility Fortum awarded Rolls-Royce the contract to upgrade the safety I&C system at Loviisa units 1 and 2.

Its other previous major I&C projects included RBMK units at Ignalina, in Lithuania; VVER units at Metsamor, in Armenia; and VVER units at Kozloduy, in Bulgaria.

The key success factors for I&C modernization or a new build project, Lessi said, start with an early conceptual design phase. For Loviisa, this was done in a "very collaborative manner" with Fortum and the Finnish regulator STUK, he said. Safety authorities like to license simple and flexible I&C designs that rely on strong processes, he said.

"The technology is obviously important and here we rely on Spinline, which is safety I&C technology that has been approved by safety authorities worldwide. Spinline, from the very beginning, was designed to serve the nuclear industry exclusively," Lessi said.

Rolls-Royce aims to support Rosatom in its overseas projects in three key areas of I&C, he said. First, reducing the risk of licensing I&C related systems in very stringent regulatory regimes, and also in terms of competitiveness and forming a long-term partnership.

On risk, Lessi said that safety I&C is becoming an increasingly important focus of regulatory authorities in approving nuclear power projects.

A key lesson learnt is that the reference plant's I&C design alone is not sufficient for licensing. "A lean architecture is key," he said, "and it needs to be adapted to each application instead of imposing a standard solution".

"In every new regulatory regime, you need to take into account the defence in-depth and the common cause failure principles, by utilising in a clever manner diversity, redundancy and independence. But obviously you always need to remain competitive," he said.

"We have noticed there has been a gradual shift in regulations and standards at safety authorities. Firstly, from focusing on individual pieces of equipment, to a global overview of the architecture - in other words, from the equipment to a systems engineering approach. Secondly, it is not only about technology - now in safety I&C you also need to show why and how a system has been designed; it has moved from being prescriptive about technical features to becoming prescriptive about the process that one has to follow."

At the same time that regulations and standards have become much more stringent, there are still some matters that are "subject to interpretation" by the individual safety authority, he said. "In our experience, it is necessary to set up what we call a 'pre-project conceptual design phase' for the I&C systems that are important to safety," he said. For the Hanhikivi 1 project therefore, Rolls-Royce will involve Finnish regulator STUK, but also Rosatom's plant designer and I&C integrator, as well as the owners of the plant and the I&C technology providers in this planning process.

"The goal of this collaboration initiative is to agree on the interpretation of requirements from country-specific guides, Wenra, the owner and the plant designer, and translate this into a very comprehensive I&C language. The aim is to get an early review from the safety authority on the main principles," he said. This approach will reduce Rosatom's licensing risk for safety I&C in the export market and provide design optimisation of the overall I&C system it uses."

Rolls-Royce has been involved in the Hanhikivi 1 project since March 2013 - with the plant designer Atomproekt, the plant I&C designer and integrator VNIIAES (the Russian Research Institute for Nuclear Power Plant Operation) and the EPC/general contractors Rusatom Overseas and Titan 2.

On 30 June this year, the project's owner Fennovoima submitted its construction licence application for the plant, stating that Rolls-Royce is "one of the two possible suppliers" of the safety automation system, he said.

In the longer term, Rolls-Royce aims to develop a safety I&C approach for VVER-1200 (AES-2006) units "in regulatory regimes known to be stringent and subject to Wenra recommendations", he said. Hanhikivi 1 and Paks II are just three VVER units that will demonstrate the importance of planning the approach to regulators, which can provide significant economic savings, he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News