Friday, February 29, 2008

Bulgarian Reactors are Not of Chernobyl Design.

The reactors at the Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear power plant are not of the same type as those at Chernobyl, but of the PWR design with better safety features. I wrote back in 2006 that Bulgaria was due to close two more reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, with severe consequences both in terms of providing for electricity in the Balkans generally and financially in Bulgaria since electricity is sold for hard cash. This was part of the conditions laid down by the European Union for Bulgaria to join it.

There are many issues involved, both social, economic, political and environmental, but I have read a number of implications to the effect that the reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power station are the same as those at Chernobyl. It has been made clear to me that this is not true, and so I wish to put this part of the record straight now. The reactors at the Kozloduy power plant are of the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR), (VVER-440: V-230) type, and so are entirely different from the graphite-moderated, water-cooled (RBMK) type at Chernobyl.

The designation of the Kozloduy reactors in the public consciousness is especially sensitive since Bulgaria wishes to re-open the two that were closed at the end of 2006 to ensure its inclusion among the enlargement countries in the EU, which considered them unsafe. President Georgy Parvanov has urged the EU to carry-out a peer revue in order to re-evaluate safety features at the two closed reactors with the view that they be reopened. Parvanov said, "There is not a single survey proving the reactors are unsafe to operate." Bulgaria agreed to close two 440 MW reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant thus leaving them with just two 1,000 MW reactors from the six there were originally at Kozloduy, since the two oldest reactors were shut in 2002.

Mr Parvanov said, "If the Commission decides that it does not have the capacity to conduct such a peer review and assigns the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (instead), we will agree. We will accept the result of the review."

Apparently, the IAEA had already checked the reactors immediately before they were closed and found no immediate objections to their operational status. However, the EU's own experts decided that the facility could not be upgraded at an acceptable cost. The consequence is that Bulgaria is no longer a principal exporter of electricity within the Balkans, having decreased its exports from 8 billion kWh to just 300 million kWh in 2007. In order to make up for this lost capacity the Bulgarian government has signed an agreement with the Russian company Atomstrolexport to build a new nuclear plant at Belene which is planned to start operating in 2013 (unit 1) and the second unit in the following year.

I shall watch the details of this highly complex and pressing issue unfold with interest.

Related Reading.
[1] "Bulgarian President Wants to reopen Nuclear Plant." The Bulgarian Post: http://bulgaria.the
[2] "Bulgarian leader urges EU to allow reactors' reopening."


Anonymous said...

Just when you thought it was safe to be a luddite, again;

Nanoparticles could make hydrogen cheaper than gasoline

quote:"Instead of switching 170,000 gas stations over to hydrogen, using our electrodes could enable consumers to make their own hydrogen, either in the garage or right on the vehicle," said Kevin Maloney, president, chief executive officer and co-founder of QuantumSphere. "Our nanoparticle-coated electrodes make electrolysers efficient enough to provide hydrogen on demand from a tank of distilled water in your car."

Professor Chris Rhodes said...

Nice to hear from you again, George!

Yes, it's lovely when someone offers a lifeline of hope that a "Luddite" future will not be necessary, which doesn't appeal to me much either!

I guess there remain issues of how to make the electricity to run a huge number of electrolysers, as would be needed to install this technology on the grand scale, and there is till the matter of how to provide enough hydrogen (or come up with an alternative type of cell) to make a lot (a few hundred million at least) PEM fuel cells.

However, hydrogen could be burned in IC engines I suppose, instead, which would give some pollution from "fixing" O2 and N2 to yield NOx?

I would love to know the details, however! I guess each car could be plugged-in at home - and the H2 stored somehow? (another potential problem).

Once again, I feel that if this kind of thinking had been put into practice 30-odd years ago, we might be somewhere close now? Can it be done within the time-window of the gap between oil demand and production though?

Thanks very much!


Professor Chris Rhodes said...

Whoops - that line should read...

"there is still the matter of how to provide enough *platinum* (or come up with an alternative kind of cell)to make a lot (a few hundred million at least) of PEM fuel cells."