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Peer Review at Kola: Plant of Polar Lights

By Anatoly Vasilchuk

Peer Review at Kola - Plant of Polar Lights

Built on the picturesque shores of the Imandra Lake on the Arctic Circle, Kola Nuclear Power Plant is situated 12km from Polyrnye Zori, a town founded in 1968 as a settlement for the newly constructed plant's operatives. Settlers named the town Polyrnye Zori in tribute to the phenomenon of aurora borealis, a natural light display unique to polar climates, they had witnessed in the skies above the town.  

Signalling their commitment to upholding and enhancing standards of nuclear safety, Kola NPP invited WANO Moscow to conduct a Peer Review from 2 to 17 February 2017. The review team included 25 experts from Armenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, India, Russia, Slovakia, USA, Ukraine and Sweden. Jan Nano, acting on behalf of the Slovak regulator, was team leader, with Lajos Hadnagy from Hungary as his deputy. Anatoly Tikhomirov, Chemical Department Head, represented Kola Nuclear Power Plant at the peer review.

The Kola plant provides around half of Murmansk Oblast's energy, and houses two different reactor designs. Stage 1 comprises units 1 and 2 (VVER-440 V-230 reactors) whilst Stage 2 is home to units 3 and 4 (VVER-440 V-213 reactors).

Since being commissioned, Kola NPP has been dedicated to a process of continuous improvement. From 1991–2005 components of stage 1 were extensively upgraded, which brought it into compliance with new nuclear safety regulatory requirements and extended its operational lifetime by 15 years. Then, in 2007, upgrades were initiated at units 3 and 4. As a result of these improvements, in 2011 a license was granted for the extended operation of unit 3.

To increase the electrical output at the operating units, from 2011-2015 a trial operation phase was completed at unit 3, and a permit for commercial operation at 107% power level has since been sought. Unit 4 has been in commercial operation at a power level of 107% since 2014.

As it shines underneath the lights of the aurora borealis, no wonder its employees have taken to calling Kola NPP 'a gem of Polesye'.