The Nuclear Energy AgencyRewievs Safety Research Needs
For Russian-Designed Reactors
Senior nuclear safety research experts
from Russia and from the Member countries of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency
(NEA) have just completed a thorough review of the nuclear safety research
effort needed to improve the safety of nuclear power reactors of Russian
design (*). The aim was to develop practical conclusions and recommendations
regarding high priority safety research that will assist decision-makers
and managers of research funding in planning, initiating and carrying
out programmes that can improve the safety of these types of reactors.
Following the break-up of the Soviet
Union in 1991, major national and international organisations initiated
programmes to assess and improve the safety of nuclear power plants in
countries operating Russian-designed reactors. Included were bilateral
and multilateral assistance programmes, co-ordinated by the G-24, among
them being: the programmes of the European Commission (PHARE, TACIS),
the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear
safety account of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,
and, of course, the co-operation and assistance programme of the NEA.
This latter programme is intended to
contribute to an improved nuclear safety culture in the central and eastern
European countries (CEEC) and the Newly Independent States (NIS) by concentrating
on long-term objectives, as a complement to the near-term technical upgrades
to the plants with the highest risk, and improvements of operational safety.
In 1995, an OECD Support Group on the Safety Research Needs for Russian-Designed
Reactors was set up, consisting of senior Russian and Western experts,
with the specific aim of identifying the safety research needs for Russian-designed
The two main types of Russian-designed
reactors are the VVER type and the RBMK type. Because of similarities
between Western light-water reactors (LWRs) and VVERs, safety research
in OECD countries applies to VVERs to a considerable extent, but some
important elements apply as well to RBMKs. Nevertheless, the emphasis
of the study is on the VVER-type reactors in part because of the larger
base of knowledge within the NEA Member countries related to light-water
reactors. For the RBMKs, the study does not make the judgement that such
reactors can be brought to acceptable levels of safety but focuses on
near-term efforts than can contribute to reducing the risk to the public.
The need for the safety research must be evaluated in the context of the
lifetime of the reactors.
Among the general conclusions drawn
by the authors of the report, are the following:
The most important near-term need for VVER
and RBMK safety research is to establish a sound technical basis for
the emergency operating procedures used by the plant staff to prevent
or halt the progression of accidents (i.e. Accident Management) and
for plant safety improvements.
Co-operation among Western and Eastern experts
should help to avoid East-West know-how gaps in the future, as safety
technology continues to improve.
Safety research in Eastern countries will make
an important contribution to public safety as it has in OECD countries.
RBMK safety research, including verification
of codes, starts from a smaller base of experience than VVER, and is
at an earlier stage of development.
In their report, the authors recommend
that a Safety Research Strategic Plan be developed; that regulators, operators,
plant designers and researchers be involved in developing and implementing
this plan; and that international co-operation in safety research be encouraged
for purposes of improving quality, preventing technical isolation, and
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(*) SAFETY RESEARCH NEEDS FOR RUSSIAN-DESIGNED
OECD, Paris 1998, 64 pages
FF 80, US$ 16, DM 23, £ 10, ¥
ISBN 92-64-15669-0 Available from the OECD Publications Distributors.