APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Monday, April 18, 2011

RBMK-1000 plants still operating

There have been so many comments, and e-mails about the Soviet-designed RBMK-1000 channel type, graphite-moderated BWR plants inquiring as to which were still operating that rather than answer them all individually, I'll try to cover this with a post.

Firstly, let's look at the Chernobyl site. Unit 4 was the unit that experienced the accident; the other three plants at the site were eventually shut down, but over a number of years. The original plans for this site called for six reactors to be in service by 1990, and in fact both No. 5 and No. 6 were under construction at the time of the accident but were never finished (although No. 5 nearly was at the time of the accident.) So none are left there.

The two units that ended up in Lithuania are shut down permanently. Our information here shows that these were actually RBMK-1500 plants, although other sources indicate that the net output of these plants was 1185 MWe, not the 1500 MWe of a full RBMK-1500 plant. It may be that the plants had smaller turbines than originally planned for the larger core size of the RBMK-1500 (which was 4800 MWt instead of the 3200 MWt of the RBMK-1000.) Whatever the case, these are shut down. The site, by the way, was originally planned to have four RBMK-1500 units in total operating by 1990.

In the Russian Federation we find all the operable RBMK type reactors, and they are all RBMK-1000 types. None of the proposed RBMK-1500 or RBMK-2400 units were begun. None of the few predecessor channel-type reactors remains in service either.

Kursk Power Station has four RBMK-1000 plants in operation. A fifth under construction was suspended.

Leningrad Power Station has four RBMK-1000 plants in operation.

Smolensk Power Station has three RBMK-1000 plants in operation. A fourth under construction was suspended.

Eleven RBMK-1000 plants are in operation as of now. Four RBMK-1000 and two RBMK-1500 plants have been shut down permanently. Four RBMK-1000 plants that were under construction were suspended and cancelled. Two RBMK-1500 units that were planned appear never to have been started. No RBMK-2400 plant was ever built or ordered.

Sources: WNA Database, and "Soviet Nuclear Power Plants" / David Katsman / Delphic Associates 1986 - from APRA technical library.

4:10 PM Eastern Monday 4/18


  1. Will, I don't know how accurate this is but it does list all the plant statuses you've mentioned plus the changes made to the RBMK reactors to improve safety http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RBMK

  2. @oldman: I have a cardinal rule, my friend; NEVER look at Wikipedia. "Open framework" means errors guaranteed! Then if you find one, go ahead and fix it there, there's every chance the original author will come back and "re-fix" the correction you made and reinsert the error. I've seen it!

  3. Are any other readers at least a little uneasy about the nuclear industry's reputation (and possibly it's future) riding to some extent on the operation of plants in other countries, some of which still have no containment, are aging, or are maintained to possibly lower standards?

    We saw considerable blowback from TMI, Chernobyl and now with Fukushima. This aspect has always seemed to me to be a very uncontrollable wild card/risk factor for the industry and for a nation's energy supply.

  4. ...especially on matters nuclear. Wikipedia edit wars have been common on a number of articles.

    On RBMK improvements, Lithuania resisted the EU's desire to close their nuclear power plant for a long time on the grounds that it had been upraded in various ways which seriously reduced the chance of any Chernobyl-like accident. Unfortunately I have no details of the upgrades.

    The thing that MOST reduced the chance of another Chernobyl-like accident, of course, was Chernobyl. Reactor operators are now 100% aware of the possible penalty of following stupid instructions.