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Russian environmentalist raises concerns over Rosatom’s RPV reuse plans (RPV = Pressure Reactor Vessel)

The reactor pressure vessel damaged during lifting operations at Ostravets-1 in Belarus has passed Rosatom’s safety inspection and may be used at the Novovoronezh II or Leningrad II plants in Russia, or the Akkuyu plant in Turkey, raising potential safety concerns, Andrey Ozharovsky, a specialist at Russian environmental non-governmental organization the Nuclear Waste Safety Program said in an email Nov. 30.

The 330-ton RPV fell from a height of between two and four meters (seven to 13 feet) while it was being lowered into place at Ostravets-1 July10, 2016. Belarus refused to accept the affected RPV, making Rosatom replace it with a new one.

Russian environmentalists have criticized Russian state nuclear company Rosatom for the lack of transparency over the RPV incident.

“Atomstroyexport [Rosatom’s engineering division] and the Belarus Energy Ministry were hiding the RPV incident for two weeks, and only under pressure from the Belarussian anti-nuclear campaign admitted the drop and damage of the RPV,” Ozharovsky said. The program is part of the Russian Social Ecological Union, one of the country’s largest environmental organizations.

According to Ozharovsky, Rosatom has said it had footage of the incident, but it has never been released.

“In my opinion, this evidences the seriousness of the incident. If they had nothing to hide, they should have released the tape to make everything clear,” Ozharovsky said. “We have every reason to assume that [when] falling from 4.5 meters, a 300-ton PRV experiences non-standard impact force. This could entail deformations and non-standard change in the PRV’s parameters in the impact spot.”

Ozharovsky added that the Belarussian government’s decision to refuse to accept the damaged RPV was correct.

“I believe the recently voiced plans to use the damaged Belarussian RPV at one of the Russian nuclear plants are extremely dangerous.

Under the AES-2006 project, Russia plans to build Leningrad II-3 and -4, and Novovoronezh II-3 and -4. The defective [Ostravets] RPV could be used at one of them or the Akkuyu plant currently under construction in Turkey,” he added.

“The use of the damaged RPV could cause a severe accident at the plant [it is ultimately installed at] including under the scenario of reactor pressure vessel failure with early containment failure,”

Ozharovsky added.

The RPV that had been intended for Ostravets-1 remains completely functional, and there were no technical obstacles to making use of it, Rosatom said in a statement on its website Nov. 18, 2016.

Russia’s readiness to replace the RPV at Ostravets-1 reflected the fact that the RPV’s replacement in Belarus is a public acceptance matter rather than a technological concern, Rosatom said in the statement.

Rosatom declined Dec. 2 to provide any further comment on the potential future use of the RPV.

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