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NPP in Kazakhstan: can we do without it and what are the alternatives
In accordance with the instruction given in the Address by the Head of State, the Government, together with Samruk-Kazyna JSC, will have to study the possibilities of developing nuclear energy in the republic this year. Viktor Baklanov, the first deputy director of the branch of the Institute of Atomic Energy of the National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan, reflected on what factors should be taken into account first of all.
- Viktor Vladimirovich, in the context of the search for an alternative to carbon energy, the modern world inclines its choice in favor of the nuclear power plant. What is the reason, because nuclear energy is also based on fossil raw materials, the reserves of which are not unlimited?
- Today we have come to that critical line when the world's reserves of fossil energy resources - oil, coal and gas - are on the verge of depletion. This is a very dramatic and even dangerous period for the entire world civilization, which has not managed to overcome the problem of global consumerism and technogenic influence on nature. The likelihood of an energy crisis is becoming more and more obvious for many countries, including Kazakhstan.
But this is only one side of the global energy problem. Today, other equally important issues come to the fore: global climate change, disruption of the thermal balance of the planet and the composition of the atmosphere, problems of waste accumulation and access to resources, preservation of biodiversity, security of energy communications, and others.
Unfortunately, we already have to deal with the impact of climate change on livelihoods. The abnormally hot and dry summer of this year, which brought many problems to farmers and livestock breeders of the southern and western regions of the republic, is obviously also a consequence of such changes.
It is clear that many of these global problems can be solved or minimized by switching from carbon fuels to alternative and more environmentally friendly ways of generating energy. This, in my opinion, should primarily include atomic, and in the future, thermonuclear energy. But this technological stage of civilization still needs to be reached ...
- Through the development of nuclear energy?
- Quite right. Only those who walk can obey miles of roads, no matter how difficult and long they may be. And those countries that go further in this practical direction than others, obviously, will have in the future not only a certain technical potential and experience, but also clear advantages in the field of energy supply for their own needs.
This is very important from the point of view of energy security in the context of the upcoming carbon neutrality of the global economy. Today, nuclear power is one of the most promising types of energy generation in the world, and one of the most environmentally friendly and safe.
- What do you mean by the wording “explore the possibilities”, what range of issues and tasks will the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan have to solve in this area?
- The issue of building a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan has been considered since the 90s of the last century. During this time, many technical and economic studies have been carried out, a large number of potential areas for the location of the power plant have been considered.
In the course of recent studies, in which NNC specialists also took part, two areas for the construction of nuclear power plants were identified as promising - the city of Kurchatov in the East Kazakhstan region and the area of the village of Ulken, which is on the southwestern coast of Lake Balkhash in the Zhambyl region of the Almaty region.
When considering the likely construction areas, many factors were taken into account - safety (seismic conditions, the presence of potentially hazardous industrial facilities, airways, and much more), the presence of reservoirs necessary for cooling NPP reactors, tens of tons of harmful combustion products into the atmosphere), and finally, the development of the power grid infrastructure.
In addition, this is the ability to reserve the station when it stops and the ability of the region to arrange the delivery of bulky cargo, its provision with the existing infrastructure, including scientific and technical, necessary to support the construction of a nuclear power plant ...
As you can see, there is a tremendous amount of work behind such a short definition of “explore the possibilities”. First of all, it is necessary to analyze the balance of capacities in the country, taking into account the prospects for the development of regions and replacement of the capacities of energy sources that are being decommissioned. This is necessary to determine the total capacity of the future nuclear power plant and its power units.
It is also necessary to decide on the choice of the area and site for the construction of nuclear power plants in accordance with safety criteria, to analyze the world's most promising reactor technologies for the possible construction of nuclear power plants on the territory of our republic.
As world experience shows, at present and in the period until 2030, nuclear power plants with pressurized water reactors of III and III + generations will be built in the world.
The choice of reactor designs for the construction of next-generation nuclear power plants indicates that the evolutionary direction of development of reactor technology, taking into account the requirements of operating organizations, is preferred all over the world.
The safety criteria correspond to the modern indicators established by the documents of the IAEA, the European Union and other countries. In addition, it is necessary to assess the readiness for the construction of a nuclear power plant from the point of view of the legislative and regulatory framework.
Kazakhstan has a fairly developed regulatory and legal framework in the field of atomic energy use. When creating the infrastructure for the development of the nuclear energy program, this base will need to be substantially supplemented and updated.
We should not forget about the training of personnel for the development of the national atomic energy. A sufficient number of personnel must be provided for the effective management and maintenance of the nuclear power plant. In this regard, it is required to conduct an assessment of the needs in advance, taking into account the admission to the management, operation and repair of the plant (operators, engineers, managers, technicians and other specialists).
- Viktor Vladimirovich, the issue of building a nuclear power plant in the country concerns not only its location, but also the choice of the most acceptable technologies available in the world. And, as you know, there are not many of them ...
- Modern plants, which are now being designed, built and operated in the world, belong to the third generation of nuclear power plants. In their composition, they have active and passive safety systems, which, in any incident, are able to bring the reactor into a safe state even without human intervention.
The main feature of these reactors is the practical elimination at the design stage of the possibility of accidents with the destruction of the core. That is, the concept of “accident elimination during design” is being implemented.
When creating such NPPs, all incidents and accidents that happened at the plants before are taken into account. In the event of a major hypothetical accident, even the most severe, with core melting, these reactors have many protection lines. In fact, at such nuclear power plants in the event of an accident, the release of radioactive substances outside the site is impossible.
The measures envisaged in third generation reactors eliminate the need for contingency planning, such as evacuating and relocating people from the nearby area surrounding the plant, and restricting food intake even in a core disruption accident.
As is known, the channel type RBMK reactor operated in Chernobyl. Such models have not been applied in practice for a long time. Modern stations also have passive safety systems operating under the influence of natural natural physical laws and do not require, for example, a power supply for their own needs.
Let me remind you that at the Fukushima-1 station in Japan, it was the lack of power supply that made it impossible for emergency cooling of the reactor, and the outdated design of the reactor plant of the 70s of the last century, not equipped with modern safety barriers, contributed to the development of the emergency situation in 2011. Today, all the reasons that can potentially lead to problems have been carefully worked out and taken into account. Considered and protection from the release of radioactive substances in the event that an accident does occur.
- What are the prospects for the development of hydrogen energy in the world and in our country?
- Currently, in the CIS, including Kazakhstan, there is an urgent need for technologies for obtaining materials for storage, as well as transporting hydrogen and its use as a fuel. Industrial production of hydrogen in Kazakhstan has not been established, despite the potential for the development of many elements of the hydrogen economy.
A variety of methods for producing hydrogen is one of the main advantages of hydrogen energy, as it increases the energy security of the economy and reduces its dependence on certain types of raw materials.
The main prospects for hydrogen as an energy carrier are associated with the use of fuel cells, suitable, among other things, for a traditional internal combustion engine in automobiles. It can also be used in stationary power plants to provide light and heat to residential buildings, in power plants for large-scale power generation.
The general advantage of hydrogen fuel cells over other energy converters is their potentially high efficiency, the absence of moving and rubbing parts, and the practical absence of harmful emissions into the environment.
Currently, the world is dynamically developing the market for fuel cells used as autonomous power sources (mini-power plants). According to the estimates of the New US Industry study, by 2020 the global market for commercial fuel cell sales exceeded $ 1.1 billion, of which 10% is accounted for by the portable fuel cell segment. And this is far from the limit.
In 2018–2020, we carried out work on the topic "Investigation of promising materials based on the Ti-Al-Nb system for storing and transporting hydrogen", during which heterophase materials based on the Ti-Al-Nb system were obtained and the results on their hydrogen capacity were presented. in the process of sorption / desorption.
The obtained results and conclusions within the framework of the topic show the prospects for the creation of hydrogen storage materials based on the Ti-Al-Nb system. They are a necessary scientific basis for further research.
This year at NNC we are starting a new stage of research within the framework of the scientific and technical program "Development of technology for the production and storage of hydrogen for the development of alternative energy in the Republic of Kazakhstan." The idea of the program being implemented is a closed-cycle project - from the development of a new method for producing hydrogen and materials for its storage to the creation of fundamentally new devices for the practical use of hydrogen.
- What tasks are facing the NNC RK in the framework of the implementation of the priorities of the Address of the Head of State, related, among other things, to the formation of a new generation of qualified nuclear engineers?
- To meet the needs of the nuclear industry for qualified specialists, a domestic system of training and retraining of engineering and technical personnel has been created. The National Nuclear Center successfully cooperates on these issues with the leading universities of the country, near and far abroad.
With the aim of integrating education, science and industry, strengthening the ties of universities with scientific organizations and improving the training of personnel for the nuclear industry, our enterprise has four branches of the graduating departments of regional universities. On this basis, a complex of educational, methodological and scientific research works is carried out.
The enterprise organizes all types of practices: production, pre-diploma, diploma, research. To train the necessary scientific personnel, we are expanding the system of internships in leading universities and centers in the near and far abroad. The scientific personnel of our enterprise undergo training at MEPhI (Moscow), KIPT (Kharkov), TPU (Tomsk) and other universities.
For example, we can note our long-term cooperation with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). Employees of the NNC RK, within the framework of the state program, annually participate in training courses for the training of instructors at the Center for Training Personnel for the Nuclear Industry. The program includes the following directions: "Reactor technologies", "Radiation monitoring", "Response to radiation accidents".
- How is the city of Kurchatov developing today? And does this city have a future? How do you see it?
- Our city is famous for its unique history, the pages of which are inextricably linked with the formation and development of the National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan - the heart of the modern peaceful atom. Today Kurchatov, having gone through difficult times, strives to become modern, cozy and comfortable. Enterprises are successfully developing here, houses are being restored, kindergartens and schools are being built, state investment and social projects are being implemented.
Our city is very colorful and hospitable. He has a 75th anniversary ahead. They say that 75 is the age of wisdom, honor, respect and glory. I would like to believe that Kurchatov will develop precisely as a scientific city - the center of new promising technologies.
Undoubtedly, a positive impetus to its development can be given by the decision to build a nuclear power plant in this area, which would make it possible to fully realize the scientific and technical potential of its city-forming enterprise - NNC RK, which is still of great importance for world nuclear energy science and practice.