IAEA completes safety review at Armenia’s Nuclear Power Plant

IAEA completes safety review at Armenia’s Nuclear Power Plant

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A team of experts of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after completing a review of long-term operational safety at the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (ANPP) concluded that the operator has made progress in safety operations but need to address technical challenges.

SALTO (Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation) review mission was requested by ANPP to review preparedness, organization and programmes related to LTO against IAEA safety standards, following preliminary SALTO reviews in 2013 and 2016. ANPP is located near the town of Metsamor, 36 kilometres west of the capital Yerevan.

“The LTO project for ANPP involves many regulatory and technical challenges which must be addressed to maintain safety of operation,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Installation Safety. “In particular, the operator is obliged to demonstrate to the regulator that implemented and planned safety measures are adequate, and that they will remain so until the end of the intended operating period.”

The team noted that the operator has begun addressing the main findings of the previous missions, which included the need to complete necessary safety analysis updates and the identification of components requiring a new safety demonstration for LTO. The team also observed that, in preparation for extended operation, the operator had assessed the fitness for service of safety-related components and decided on an extensive replacement and upgrading programme. The team said the operator had made progress in managing aging and other technical areas relevant to safe LTO, and found plant staff to be professional, open and receptive to suggestions for improvement.

IAEA’s 12-member team conducted review from November 27 to December 6, which focused on aspects essential to the safe Long-Term Operation (LTO) of ANPP’s Unit 2, which went into commercial operation in 1980. ANPP’s Unit 1 was permanently shut down in 1989.

In 2011, the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority granted the ANPP an extension of its operating license until 2021, subject to annual safety demonstrations since 2016. The ANPP is preparing to submit an application for a second license renewal with the regulator to extend the plant’s operating lifetime until 2026.

The team—comprising experts from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Iran, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine as well as two IAEA staff members—identified several good practices and performances that will be shared with the nuclear industry globally, including:

    • Weekly training for plant managers that includes LTO areas for plant modernization.
    • A comprehensive chemistry monitoring process that provides information for an aging management programme.
      A crack detection monitoring programme to ensure the integrity of the dry spent fuel storage facility.

The team also provided several recommendations for further enhancing LTO safety, including:

  • The plant should keep the safety analysis report updated throughout the LTO period.
  • The plant should ensure that the methodology for determining the scope of LTO includes all relevant systems, structures and components.
  • The plant should ensure the adequate environmental qualification of electrical and instrumentation and control equipment is maintained.

The plant management said it was committed to implementing the recommendations and requested that the IAEA schedule a follow-up mission in 2020.

ANPP Chief Engineer, Artur Grigoryan, said: “The team comprised experienced experts from IAEA Member States and this helped us to become more familiar with best international practices in order to implement them in our plant.” He further added that “The results of the SALTO mission are essential for us to make sure we are going in the right direction. We will need to analyze the team’s findings and take appropriate steps to further enhance our safety for LTO.”

The team provided a draft report to the plant management in which plant management and the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority will have an opportunity to make factual comments after which it would be made public.

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