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An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission said the operator of Russia’s Beloyarsk NPP has shown a commitment to enhancing operational safety. The team also encouraged the operator to further improve safety in areas including accident management and safety assessments. The OSART mission was requested by the Russian Government to review operational safety at Beloyarsk unit 4.

The Beloyarsk NPP at Zarechny, in the Sverdlovsk region is owned by Rosatom and operated by Beloyarsk NPP, a subsidy of nuclear utility Rosenergoatom. The plant comprises four units. Units 1&2, both light water graphite reactors, are permanently shut down. Units 3&4 are fast neutron reactors with gross electrical capacity of 600 MWe and 885 MWe respectively. Russia has 37 nuclear power reactors in operation, providing almost 20% of its total electrical production.

The team reviewed operating practices in unit 4 in the areas of leadership and management for safety, training and qualification, operations, maintenance, technical support, radiation protection, chemistry and accident management. The included six experts from Armenia, Belarus, China and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as four IAEA staff members and three observers from Russia.

The team reviewed documents from the Beloyarsk plant on its main technical features, staff organisation and responsibilities, and its operational programmes, procedures and performance prior to the mission. During the mission, the team observed the plant in operation, examined indicators of its performance and held in-depth discussions with plant personnel.

The OSART team observed that the staff at the plant are knowledgeable and professional, and are committed to improving the operational safety and reliability of the plant. The team said that the technical exchanges with the plant’s staff were fruitful and that there was a good exchange of experience and knowledge on how the common goal of excellence in operational safety could be further enhanced.

The team identified one area of good practice to be shared with the nuclear industry globally. They said the connection used by the plant to sample gases in the reactor circuit minimises the potential for impurities to impact the gas analysis, whilst ensuring that the gas does not escape into the work area.

The mission also provided some suggestions to further improve safety, including that:

The plant should consider enhancing its accident management programme to include the full range of ‘beyond design’ external hazards for all modes and states of operation and all fuel locations on site.The plant should consider extending the scope of its probabilistic safety assessments (PSA) to ensure that all potential failure scenarios are identified to cover all operational modes, all fuel locations on site as well as the full spectrum of external hazards.The plant should consider improving the effectiveness of the checks carried out during field operator walkdowns, so all deficiencies and adverse conditions are identified to ensure safe and reliable operation of plant structures, systems and components.

“It is the first time an IAEA OSART mission was held at the power unit of a BN-800 fast neutron reactor,” said Ivan Sidorov, Director of Beloyarsk NPP. “For three weeks, the reviewers and counterparts have worked hard, performing dozens of plant tours, interviews and observations, and analysing plant documentation for all reviewing areas. We appreciate the reviewers’ professional point of view, and we are ready to learn from their experience to improve safety at Beloyarsk NPP.”

The team provided a draft report of the mission to the plant management. They will have the opportunity to make factual comments on the draft. These comments will be reviewed by the IAEA, and the final report will be submitted to the government within three months.

Image: Beloyarsk nuclear power plant (courtesy of IAEA)

Date: Wednesday, 29 November 2023
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