ArmInfo. The adviser to the Minister of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources of Armenia Areg Galstyan answers the questions of ArmInfo
Mr. Galstyan, in less than two months, the delivery of equipment for the implementation of the program to extend the life of the power unit of the Armenian nuclear power plant N2 will begin. Thus, the second stage of the program begins. It would be nice to know what specific activities are to be implemented within this stage?
In accordance with the decree of the Government of Armenia and the program for the extension of the second power unit of the Armenian nuclear power plant, all work is divided into two stages. Within the framework of the first stage, a huge preparatory work was done, which turned out to be quite long and ambitious. About 4,500 items of equipment were inspected. Actually, the outcome of the first stage depended on whether we would proceed to the second stage or not. During the first stage, a complete analysis of the instrumentation equipment, especially the primary circuit, where the reactor is located, and all the equipment that is in the process chain was carried out. With the involvement of the best specialists and relevant tools, the valves, pipelines, and building structures were also thoroughly and thoroughly inspected. As a result of the recently completed planned preventive maintenance, it can be argued that the first stage of the extension program has almost finished, although some work remains to be done. Most importantly, we have received all the initial data, which indicate a good state of the reactor installation. Based on the received data, calculations are now carried out, various scenarios are calculated. As a result of these works, a report on the state of the metal will be prepared. Similar surveys were conducted earlier with the involvement of the best foreign companies and specialists. Today, based on these data, it can be said that things at the station are not bad. But one thing preliminary analysis and quite another - a thorough study using the latest techniques used to extend the life of the units. Now we are at this stage. I am sure that everything will go fine, there should not be surprises.
Taking into account the fact that the project implementation deadlines are quite short, we are simultaneously conducting preparatory work for the implementation of the second stage. For example, railway tracks are being restored to deliver large-sized equipment to the station. In October this year they will be taken into operation. Moreover, it is not just about rebuilding the railway section from Armavir to the station, but also on the territory of the nuclear power plant itself, which is necessary to bring large-scale equipment directly to the shop where it should be installed. Moreover, as you have noticed, from November supplies of equipment for the second circuit of the nuclear power plant will begin. All equipment - generators, transformer, equipment for modernization of the turbine, condenser, so-called thermomechanical and electrical equipment, will be delivered in stages. We plan to completely replace the thermal-mechanical equipment of the turbine generator during the works of 2018, in particular, we will have to replace the old ones with new ones. In addition, the system electrical substation with a capacity of 220 kW will be completely modernized. It is also necessary to carry out major repairs of cooling towers, which are a very important element affecting the parameters of the unit's efficiency. We are already close to starting work on cooling towers and we hope that this part of the work will be performed by Armenian companies. The main emphasis in the framework of the 2014 works will be made to improve the level of security systems - electronics, automation, pumps, latches. The implementation of the program will allow to increase the technical and economic parameters of the unit, to increase the production of electricity, to reach higher capacities of the unit, which by 10% or 300 million kWh will exceed design capacity.
Additional volumes of electricity will allow us to serve the Russian $ 270 million export loan without any problems ...
Without a doubt. The station should return the credit at the expense of generation of the electric power, receiving for it money. And if the electricity is sold more, accordingly, there will be more revenues of financial resources, and this gives more opportunities for trouble-free loan servicing. Thus, the load on the tariff will be much lower.
How much time the 2018 works will take?
In 2018, the timing of scheduled maintenance work will be quite long. But the fact is that the block will not be stopped completely. First, one turbine will be shut down, on which modernization will be carried out, and the second will continue its work.
Then the whole block will be stopped for a shorter time, during which both turbines will not work. After their modernization, at first one turbine will be started, and after a short time - the second one. The repair work will take about six months. Under the program, we will complete the bulk of the work in 2018-2019. Then there will remain work not of the first degree of importance that the station itself will be able to perform.
Does Armenia fall within the quota set for it in 20% for the development of a Russian loan?
We try, although there are some limitations. Nevertheless, there are terms of the agreement, and we are obliged to fit into its framework ...
As part of the modernization program, is it working with international structures, such as the IAEA and WANO?
We have very good and productive relations with both structures. We are provided with all necessary assistance. The contribution of the IAEA is significant in this matter, and various countries help us. Most recently, the partner audit of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) was completed at the station. "Fresh eye" is always useful, as each station has its operational experience, and applying the best world experience at the Armenian NPP is of undoubted service to us. The WANO expert group from all over the world was great, it conducted a thorough check, identifying shortcomings, for which we are very grateful. These shortcomings, no doubt, will be eliminated. We also always have IAEA professional missions, focused on various areas, from the safety culture to operation, to the safe use of nuclear fuel. They give recommendations, remarks, which we are obliged to eliminate in certain terms. In this regard, our relations with internationally recognized organizations are at a very good level, we always fulfill all their requirements. In addition, on safety issues, the station submits to the IAEA a national report every three years. In the spring of this year, a similar report was submitted. Next year, a report on radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel will be presented. This year a very good report was presented. I must say that there is always something to improve in the issue of safe operation of the station. And to a large extent this is facilitated by cooperation with international structures. After the accident at the Japanese nuclear power plant "Fukushima" requirements for all areas of security were sharply increased, including the physical security of the stations. Each country operating nuclear power plants, including us, began to invest a lot of money in raising the level of safety within the program to extend the life of the second power unit of the ANPP.
You mentioned the program financed by the Russian side. And what is the participation of the station itself in this project? Does the ANPP invest its financial resources?
Doubtless. After the regulating body approves the tariff margin, an investment plan is drawn up, which is governed by the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant. Moreover, the plan is drawn up for several years. Every year, depending on the situation, adjustments are made to the activities that we carry out on our money, including, in terms of improving the level of security.
Can we expect that within the next 10 years Armenia will finally decide on a new nuclear power unit?
I am confident that this issue will be resolved in the near future. Today, one thing is clear for us: we will build a block of medium capacity up to 600 MW. or low power. Everything will depend on what technologies, including the cost characteristics, will appear on the market in the next two years. Five years ago, when a decision was taken to build a new block of 1,000 MW, there was not a single proposal for medium and low capacity in the market. Meanwhile, there are few countries in the world that can afford to build blocks with a capacity of 1,000 or more megawatts. Today, several countries in the world have launched a very high competition in the market, offering medium and small capacity. For a country like Armenia, the ideal option is to build a 600 MW unit. It fits very well with the country's energy system. Now there are technologies for the construction of such nuclear power units, including 50 megawatt, so-called modular reactors, and reactors with a capacity of 100, 200, 300 MW. You can use 50-megawatt modular reactors, which involve the assembly of 12 reactors, which will result in a single unit of 600 megawatts. Moreover, in the beginning it will be possible to limit 6 reactors, bringing the capacities to the required volumes, depending on the level of the country's development. Naturally, for us this condition is an ideal one .
The issue of training specialists for nuclear power has been rising more and more recently. What is being done and done in this direction?
This issue is complicated not only for Armenia, but for all countries of the world. The problem does take place. The task is to smoothly replace station staff with younger staff. As of today, the problem is not so acute yet. We have a very difficult problem with qualified certified welders, professionals with secondary special education. Here we really have very serious problems, the welders are extremely short, which makes us constantly invite specialists from other countries. But this issue is being solved. Now, on the basis of the scientific research institute "Armatom", a center for training welders opens. In this case, the US Department of Energy helps us. It will be a specialized center that will prepare and provide certificates to high-class welders. Also on the basis of "Armatom" a center for training specialists using tools for nondestructive testing will open. These two specialties are most in demand in Armenia, and with the opening of the two centers we are going to solve the problem. The National Polytechnic University of Armenia is very vigorous in terms of training, which interacts well with the Russian Federation and the United States. Russia annually allocates free quotas to Armenia for training Armenian students in the best specialized universities of Russia. One of such educational centers is MEPhI. Unfortunately, Armenia does not fully use these quotas. Russia, for example, provides us with 10 seats per year, and we send 5 people. The National Research Center "Kurchatov Institute" is engaged in retraining of Armenian specialists. Most importantly, the train moved. If in previous years we have not been active in this direction, now this activity is obvious. I even managed to talk with Armenian students, who this year will go to Russia to continue their studies in magistracy.
In the near future Moscow Institute of Physics will hold a competition in Armenia among Armenian students in physics and mathematics, the winners of which will get the right to continue their education in this university ..
This initiative belongs to the State Corporation of Rosatom, with which excellent relations have been established. Together with the state corporation, a major program of activities is implemented, one of which is the development of nuclear infrastructure. It's not just about the nuclear power plant, it's about everything connected with the development of nuclear energy, including training of personnel.
Recently a research laboratory was set up jointly by the National Polytechnic University and the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant. Can we talk about the beginning of the formation of a scientific cluster?
Exactly. Such an agreement is indeed signed. But I must note that we already have a serious institution in the person of "Armatom", which is focused exclusively on nuclear power. In Soviet times, he was a branch of the largest Moscow institute, and with the collapse of the USSR gained the status of an independent subject. Most importantly, we did not lose the staffing potential of this institution. It employs professionals with a capital letter, seeks to work in it and the youth. The Institute carries out works not only on the order of the Armenian NPP, but also on orders of the IAEA, a number of countries. Those jobs that they perform are of a very high standard. For example, they produce anti-seismic protection systems (SIAS), which are their "chip". SIAS is now fully competitive in the global market. They also produce educational tools at a high level - mock-ups, stands, training programs for repair personnel, computer support. Of course, it is necessary to develop other areas in order to diversify sources of receiving orders. In addition, the Polytechnic University conducts laboratory work, during which students in an online mode conduct research work on research reactors in the United States. There is also a scientific unit at the State Nuclear Safety Regulatory Committee, which provides scientific support to the regulator. It collected highly qualified personnel who develop scientific expertise. Of course, we are not Russia or the United States, but gradually, step by step, we are moving towards the formation of a powerful scientific cluster in the field of nuclear research. Moreover, in some areas we look very worthy.
Recently, the government decided to stop the first block of the Armenian nuclear power plant. The project implementation period is set at 30 years, and the amount of attracted investments in this project should exceed $ 340 million. Why is this decision being made right now?
The volume of investment is still approximate, no one can say the exact figures now. At the end of next year, an updated strategy for the decommissioning of the first unit will be developed and approved. A similar strategy with EU funds was developed 8 years ago. But since then much time has passed, methods and approaches have changed, which requires updating the strategy. Given the fact that the second unit will be operated before the end of 2026, it was necessary to determine the first unit. Based on the updated strategy, the project cost will be determined. Obviously only one thing, the funds will not be spent immediately. At the first stage, which will take 10 years, will be used small financial resources. During this period, it is planned to dismantle the equipment of the second circuit of the first unit, which is not contaminated. After the first stage, preparatory work will begin for the second stage, which will last about 20 years. And here we are talking about dismantling the equipment of the first circuit of the unit, which includes a reactor installation.