Water tightness tests of the reactor vessel and main circulation system are underway at unit 3 of Russia’s Rostov nuclear power plant. The unit is scheduled to start operating later this year.

Demineralized water is being pumped into the unit’s reactor vessel, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom reported. The reactor vessel head is not yet in place, so the tests are not being carried out at normal operating temperatures and pressures.

The tests will, however, verify that the joints between the 320-tonne vessel and attached pipelines are watertight and provide an opportunity to test the cooling system. These tests are expected to take almost four weeks to complete, after which final assembly of the reactor will be completed and further pre-operational tests conducted.

Chief engineer at the Rostov plant Alexei Zhukov said, “The next stage will be testing the water tightness of the piping systems of four accumulators for the emergency cooling system, then then safety system pipes and so on. All this brings us to the launch of the third unit”.

Four 1000 MWe VVER pressurized water reactors have been planned at the Rostov site (formerly known as Volgodonsk) since the early 1980s. Construction of units 1 and 2 began promptly, but progress faltered. Units 1 and 2 eventually entered commercial operation in March 2001 and October 2010, respectively.

In June 2009, NN-AEP, a subsidiary of AtomEnergoProm (AEP), won the tender as principal contractor for the construction of units 3 and 4, now slightly larger at 1100 MWe. Construction of unit 3 began again in late 2009, with its reactor building dome installed in October 2012.

Units 3 and 4 are set to be completed by 2014 and 2016, respectively.

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