Russia's Nuclear Energy Corporation, Rosatom, has piloted technology designed to extend the service life of large-capacity reactors by 15-30 years, the company announced on Wednesday.
According to the company's statement, Rosatom has become the first company to test the annealing process. This annealing test took place in mid November on the first unit of the large-capacity VVER-1000 reactor of the Balakovo nuclear power plant (NPP), located 900 kilometers from Moscow.
The annealing technology, designed by Russian scientists from the National Research Center Kurchatov Institute, allows the extension of the reactor's service life by using heat treatment that recovers the physical parameters of the metal in a reactor vessel.
The technology is set to prevent up to 7.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions and boost safety and the economic performance of nuclear plants.
The project also opens up cost-effective life-extension opportunities for the fleet of ageing one-gigawatt installed capacity reactors across the globe, the company said.
"Today, there are about 37 VVER-1000 [reactors] around the world. Annealing [of a reactor vessel] is the new and, currently, only technology in the world that allows the extension of the service life of a reactor. This technology will be available for export," said Rosatom CEO Alexey Likhachev.
"The long-term operation of VVER-type reactors under neutron irradiation leads to the degradation of the metal properties in reactor pressure vessels. This limits the lifetime of the whole NPP," said Mikhail Kovalchuk, president of the Kurchatov Institute.
He added that scientists have developed and patented the VVER-1000 nuclear reactor vessel's recovery annealing technology, which can be adapted for water-moderated reactors of any design and capacity.
"The pilot recovery annealing of the first unit of the Balakovo NPP vessel was carried out in mid-November. It led to the recovery of the structure and mechanical properties of the pressure vessel metal to its original state. According to the annealing results, this VVER-1000 reactor pressure vessel received an additional 15 years of service life," he added.
All the technical data gathered during the procedure will be compiled into a report and submitted to Russia's national regulator, Rostekhnadzor, for approval, the statement said.
By Firdevs Yuksel