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Fission and radiation protection

Coordination Action - VVER Safety Research: Boosting Safety and Reliability of Reactors in the New Member States

COVERS is a Coordination Action project designed to improve the professional and communication environment in all areas, covering aspects of safe and reliable operation of nuclear power plants using Soviet-designed VVER-440 and VVR-1000 reactors. The characteristic feature of this project is the large number of participating organisations, which, over the years, have accumulated significant individual and often proprietary knowledge and expertise on these systems.

Combine knowledge, organise research structures

A coordinated effort will be undertaken with the objective to combine the individual accumulated knowledge of all the parties involved in operating VVER type reactors. This will provide a synergic effect in achieving quantitatively and qualitatively superior results in areas covered by the project.

An important objective of the project is the development of a viable RTD structure for issues relating to VVER performance and safety. This will include outlining tasks that are shared among the partners, increasing the mobility of researchers, and improving the exploitation and dissemination of innovative results. The COVERS consortium is composed of 26 leading R&D, engineering and technical support organisations that are involved with the operation of VVER nuclear power plants both within the EU and outside.

Forging links for safety and good practice

A main task will be to strengthen links between all parties involved in VVER safety research. These include research and technical support organisations, industry and engineering companies, governmental research organisations, universities, regulatory bodies and utilities. The terms and conditions required to assure a high level of nuclear safety for VVER reactors will be maintained and improved in close collaboration with similar international projects devoted to western-designed reactors, including appropriate nuclear education and training. Using the experience gained in the course of plant operation, 'good practice' topics in areas such as nuclear safety and plant life management will be assessed.

Conditions for efficient exchange of information will be created and co-operative links for improved communication between participating organisations established. As part of this, a common database will be created and the dissemination channels for VVER relevant plant data coordinated to the benefit of all parties involved. Relevant and required R&D tasks in terms of both analytical and experimental programmes will be identified and instigated.

Collaborative research, shared facilities

The COVERS project will build a viable R&D structure and evaluate its impact on VVER plant safety and plant life management through the implementation of its results by the organisations involved. The project will also develop and deploy a fully functional platform for the project team that can store and share information accumulated by the partners within the project.

A collaborative R&D programme will be proposed covering the areas of VVER operational safety, material and equipment ageing. National programmes will be mobilised around this programme. The final results obtained on critical issues such as the Operational Safety and Material and Equipment Ageing will be swiftly disseminated to all end-users. A significant contribution in the research programme will be to justify and validate feasibility studies for plant life extension. Discussions on the results will be held involving end-users and the public.

The project will also identify VVER experimental facilities in participant organisations and beyond and formulate recommendations for their shared use. Finally, mobility schemes will be put in place to enable university graduates and PhD students to move easily between organisations and countries in order to gain useful experience.

Enhanced safety to boost public acceptance

The COVERS project will contribute significantly to the enhancement of operational safety and reliability in VVER nuclear plants. This is a very important factor in the continued public acceptance of nuclear energy. Compared with fossil-fuel burning plants, safe and reliable nuclear power plants are an environmentfriendly energy source.

Results obtained from the project will be used for educational purposes at university level with graduate, post-graduate and PhD students, whilst the participation of utility company representatives, in both the advisory and end-user groups, will guarantee the prompt implementation of lessons learned in the project.

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