IAEA Leads Operational Safety Mission to Smolensk Nuclear Power Plant

2011/14
Desnogorsk

An international team of nuclear safety experts led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reviewed the Smolensk Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) near Desnogorsk, in Russia's Smolensk region, for its safety practices and has noted a series of good practices as well as recommendations and suggestions to reinforce them.

The IAEA assembled the team at the request of the Government of the Russian Federation to conduct an Operational Safety Review (OSART) of the NPP. Under the leadership of the IAEA's Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, the OSART team performed an in-depth operational safety review from 5 to 22 September 2011. The team was made up of experts from China, India, Lithuania, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, UK, USA, the World Association of Nuclear Operators and the IAEA.

The team conducted an in-depth review of the aspects essential to the safe operation of the Smolensk NPP. The conclusions of the review are based on the IAEA's Safety Standards and proven good international practices. The review covered the areas of Management, Organization and Administration; Training; Operations; Maintenance; Technical Support; Operating Experience; Radiation Protection; and Chemistry.

Throughout the review, the exchange of information between the OSART experts and plant personnel was very open, professional and productive. The plant's staff were found to be motivated, well trained, knowledgeable and experienced.

The OSART team has identified good plant practices which will be shared with the rest of the nuclear industry for consideration of their application. Examples include the following:

  • Illuminated hot-spot wire to identify higher radiation levels is used in the radiation-controlled area to reduce exposures when working in the controlled area;
  • Modern and state-of-the-art training infrastructure and facilities are available at the plant. These include: maintenance training centre; multimedia simulator for the refueling machine; and safety training facilities for radiation, fire and industrial safety;
  • A set of handbooks for self-study are available to staff, providing them with an overview of events at plants in Russia and other countries; and
  • There is comprehensive and fast-acting information system on the reactor status, including a detailed assessment of the neutron field in axial and radial directions.

The team has also made recommendations and suggestions related to areas where operational safety of Smolensk NPP could be improved. The most significant proposals include the following:

    • To ensure that a plant specific equipment qualification programme is developed and implemented, thus ensuring the capability of the equipment to perform its functions under postulated service conditions, including those arising from accidents;

To improve the condition of cables trays and the routing of cables to ensure that the condition of cables is maintained at a high standard;

  • To ensure that the surveillance programme for systems and equipment validates their required safety performance more effectively; and
  • To improve the measurement methodology for the confinement system in order to ensure that the equivalent leak cross section is determined with sufficient accuracy.

Smolensk NPP management expressed a determination to address all the areas identified for improvement and requested the IAEA to schedule a follow-up mission in approximately 18 months.

The team handed over a draft of their recommendations, suggestions and good practices to the plant management in the form of "Technical Notes" for factual comments. The technical notes will be reviewed at the IAEA headquarters including any comments from Smolensk NPP and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of the Russian Federation. The final report will be submitted to the Government of the Russian Federation within three months.

This was the 165th mission of the OSART programme, which began in 1982. OSART missions were performed in the Russian Federation at Balakovo NPP in 2008 and Rostov NPP in 2005.

General information about OSART missions can be found on the IAEA Website.

Background

An OSART mission is designed as a review of programmes and activities essential to operational safety. It is not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the plant's overall safety status. Experts participating in the IAEA's June 2010 International Conference on Operational Safety of Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) reviewed the experience of the OSART programme and concluded:

  • In OSART missions NPPs are assessed against IAEA Safety Standards which reflect the current international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety; and
  • OSART recommendations and suggestions are of utmost importance for operational safety improvement of NPPs.

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Last update: 12 September 2014