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International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Engineering Volume 4 Issue 1, March 2014
doi: 10.14355/ijnese.2014.0401.04

Concept for the WWR-M Reactor Renovation

Yu. N. Lobach
Institute for nuclear research
pr.Nauki, 47 Kiev 03680, Ukraine
This paper presents the current status and feasibility of
extended use of WWR-M research reactor; the extention of
the reactor life depends strongly on the vessel condition.
Generic information regarding works performed during
reactor upgrade is also presented. In the present paper, the
concept of the reactor renovation is proposed; and the key
element is the replacement of the reactor vessel. Estimation
of the technical implementation for such replacement is
given. The concept schedule sequence is determined with
forthcoming result of the reactor life-time extension for
another 40-50 years.
Research Reactor; Renovation; Vessel; Primary Circuit

According to the IAEA information (IAEA 2012) more
than one half of research reactors world-wide is in
operation for over 40 years and now it is the time to
make a decision on the further utilization of each of
them. Such decision should be based on the current
technical conditions of the reactor, the actuality and
scientific significance of problems which are faced at
this reactor, and the safety level. The research reactor
should be considered as safe if during the routine
operation and the design-basis accidents the doses to
the staff and population as well as the concentration
of radionuclides in the environment are within
established limits by means of the technical tools and
administrative measures (IAEA 1993, 2005). The
compliance with the required safety levels are
achieved by several measures, which can be
conditionally divided into three categories: a) the
maintenance and repair aimed on providing of the
operational integrity of existing equipment; b) the
reconstruction and renewal, i.e. the replacement or
upgrading of the equipment with the goal of obtaining
the designed operational parameters; c) the modernization or modification of the equipment with the goal
of increasing the designed operational parameters.
The construction of new research reactors instead of
obsolete ones should be reasonable both technologi-


cally and financially. The development of a new

reactor, which would satisfy all modern requirements,
is an expensive and onerous task even for the
developed countries. Therefore, the reconstruction or
upgrading of the reactors after expiring of the
designed life-time seems to be more rational. The
necessity of comprehensive renovation is caused
mainly by the irreversible changes in the reactors
components, namely, the embrittlement of the vessel
and reflector caused by the high neutron flux; the
aging of the electronics, etc. The main direction at the
reactor renovation should be the increase of the
reactor operational parameters, the level of the nuclear
and industrial safety as well as the reactor life-time
extension (Apostolov 2010). The renovation can be
done stepwise, when a specific equipment is the
subject of replacement, or completely when it is
related to the long-term shutdown and the replacement of all obsolete equipment. In the case of complete
renovation, the reactors life time is extended to
several decades. The given paper describes the current
status of the WWR-M reactor, the needs, the prerequisites and the possibilities of the reactor renovation.
Reactor Design and Operational History
The WWR-M reactor is one of the successful
modifications of the light water reactors (Bat 1985).
Such reactors combines the design simplicity, the
convenience of the experiment conduction, the modest
construction cost, the low operational expenses, the
performance reliability and the safety. The reactor
commissioned in February 1960 is a heterogeneous
water-moderated pool-in-tank type research reactor
operating with thermal neutrons at a power level of 10
MWth, providing a maximum neutron flux of 1.51014
cm-2s-1 at the core centre (Figs 1, 2). Today the reactor
still in operation is located on the site of the Institute
for nuclear research (INR) in the Goloseev district of
Kiev city. The Institute is the reactor operator and
possesses all necessary licenses and permissions for
the reactor operation. For more than 50 years of
operation, there was not any single incident with the
exceeding of norms and conditions for the normal

International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Engineering Volume 4 Issue 1, March 2014

operation (Lobach 2010) as well as no radioactive

contaminations were detected above the established
levels (Tryshyn 2010). This fact confirms the safety of
reactor. The reactor radiation impact on the
environmental objects is very low and indistinguishable on the natural background.

includes the equipment and systems which provide

the reactor operation at all designed regimes and
exclude the regimes which are inadmissible from the
point of view of nuclear and radiation safety or
threaten by the damages. Conditionally, the reactor
systems are divided into two groups. The first one
includes the systems providing the core cooling and
maintaining the coolant parameters such as the
temperature, the pressure, the chemical composition
and the level of radioactivity. The second one is
composed of the systems which are not related
directly to the heat removal, but needed for the reactor
operation, namely: the control rod, the radiation
control and protection, the fresh and spent fuel
management, the power supply, the special sewage,
the ventilation, the radioactive waste management.
Several systems such as the reactor vessel, the pipelines of the primary and secondary circuits (excluding
the heat-exchangers with the segments of pipe-lines),
the power supply, the spent fuel storage as well as the
buildings have not been changed since the reactor
commissioning. The mentioned systems and elements
were a subject of a technical survey; and the survey
results were determined the residual life of these
components (INR 2009). The reactor systems and
elements which work at the reactor without
replacement or changes since 1960, are the following:



biological concrete shielding; 3 horizontal experimental channel;
4 thermal column; 5 cooling pond; 6 rotating cover plates;
7 - primary circuit pipe-lines.

The complete technological scheme of the reactor

the reactor vessel with the internals: the

beryllium reflector, the core frame with the
supporting lattice, the bottoms of the
horizontal experimental channels and the niche
of thermal column;

the thermal column;

the primary circuit pipe-line segments made

from the SAV-1 alloy and stainless steel with
the pumps and the valve gates;

the ventilators of the special ventilation system


the airways;

the power supply system (partially): the power

transformers (2 items) and the switchboard.

Reactor systems and elements such as the control rods,

the radiation control and protection, the generators
and accumulators of the autonomous emergency
power supply, the water cooling tower, the automatic
fire alarm, the physical protection as well as the power
and control cables were replaced at different time. The
list of the most significant renovation works is
presented below.

International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Engineering Volume 4 Issue 1, March 2014

The Core Cooling System

The renovation of the primary circuit was carried out
in 1989, when the heat-exchangers were replaced by
new ones of another design. The primary circuit pipeline segments adjacent to the heat-exchangers were
replaced too. The old heat-exchangers have a
significant deterioration; the part of the heatexchanger tubes was fouled by the sediments (up to
30%). The two new heat-exchangers of horizontal type
have a total cooling surface of 658 m2 (2329).
The complete replacement of the water cooling tower
was performed in 70s, namely, instead of the tower,
the new four-segment fan cooling system was
constructed that provide adequate cooling at the
nominal power. The major repair of this system was
conducted in 1995-1999, which increased the reliability
and the residual life.
The Control Rod System
The overhaul of this system was made in 2006-2007. In
accordance with the design [Lobach 2009], the old
control rod system was replaced with a modern
system that incorporated the best design solutions.
This project was outlined in the programmetechnological complex for the regulation, control,
manipulation and protection of the WWR-M reactor
and was designed, manufactured and assembled by
the Radiy Corporation (Kirovograd, Ukraine).
The following elements were replaced:

the equipment of the main control board

(devices for the control of technological
parameters, electrical equipment for the
mechanisms driving, alarm system);

the relay switchboard of the control rods

system as well as the workstations for the rods;

the control desks for the pumps and valve

gates in the primary and secondary circuits,
ventilator and cooling tower;

the sensors of the technological parameters of

the reactors systems (circulation rate, levels,
temperature, pressure etc.) and impulse tubes;

the power and control cables of the operating


The Spent Fuel Management

An upgrading of this system was completed in 2009.
New spent fuel storage facility was constructed and
commissioned; today the facility capacity is equal to
1104 fuel assemblies. Facility is located in a separate


premise adjacent to the reactor hall and equipped by a

transportation route for the reloading from the old
cooling pond to new one.
The Radiation Control and Protection
The equipment of this system has been replaced twice
since the initial design. New equipment was obtained
in 2006 in the framework of the IAEA Technical cooperation project. This equipment expands significantly
the possibilities of the system in accordance with the
acting requirements in the area of radiation protection
[Shevel 2008].
The Power Supply
The replacement of the control and power cables by
new fire-resistant ones was made in 2002-2006. The
electrical control units with the fittings, the circuit
changers and dashboards were replaced in 2006; these
elements are belonging to the pumps electric motors
of the primary and secondary circuits and the electric
motors of the ventilation. Additional source of
emergency power supply, namely, two diesel
generators of the AD-100-T1400 type with the power
of 100 kW, was commissioned in 1997.
The Physical Protection System
New system was assembled and commissioned in
The Fire-prevention System
New modern system has been commissioned in 2011.
Vessel Conditions
The vessel is the basic element, which determines the
safe operation of the reactor. The core with the
experimental tools and management facilities is
installed inside the vessel. Practically, the possibility of
the reactor operation depends strongly on the vessel
The vessel drawing is shown in Fig. 3. The reactor is
equipped with 9 horizontal experimental channels, a
thermal column, and 13 vertical isotope channels
inside the beryllium reflector. The vessel has a
cylindrical shape and is made from the SAV-1 alloy
(the US analogue is the alloy 6061). The use of this
alloy as construction material for research reactors is
in virtue of its physical and mechanical properties
such as the relatively low absorption of the thermal
neutrons, the high values of the thermal conductivity,
the corrosion resistance and the plasticity as well as

International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Engineering Volume 4 Issue 1, March 2014

the low density. The chemical composition of the SAV

alloy is (%): 97.6-98.6 Al, 0.7-1.2 Si, 0.45-0.9 Mg, 0.2 Fe,
0.012 Cu, 0.03 Zn, 0.3 Ni, and 0.01 Mn. The vessel wall
thickness is equal to 16 mm; the diameter 2300 mm,
the height 5340 mm.

the irradiation: the neutrons of different

energies; the gamma-radiation and other kinds
of the reactor irradiation);

the cyclic stress caused by the thermal load and

the changes of the hydraulic pressure at the
switching of the primary circuit pumps;

the mechanical load on the vessel elements;

the corrosive wear.

All kinds of loads on the load-carrying structures

remain unchangeable during the reactor operation.
The neutron irradiation has an intense influence only
on the vessel elements adjacent to the core, i.e. bottoms
of the horizontal experimental channels (9 items) and
the supporting lattice. The radiation strengthening of
the vessel material occurs due to the neutron
irradiation, but at the same time this process is
accomplished by the loss of plasticity; therefore, and
the friable breaking strength can be considered only as
the reliability estimation for the irradiated elements.

FIG. 3. Scheme of the reactor vessel: 1- channels of the thermal

column; 2 vertical experimental channels (13 items); 3 control rod
channels; 4 technological cover plate; 5 reactor vessel; 6 fuel
elements; 7 lattice for the water flow smoothing; 8 horizontal
experimental channel; 9 core frame; 10 beryllium reflector; 11
supporting lattice; 12 filter; 13 reactor bottom; 14 - stiffening rib;
15, 16, 17 adjoints; 18 niche of thermal column.

It was determined that the most vulnerable vessels

elements from the point of view of the neutron
irradiation, the thermal changes and the possible
corrosion are the supporting lattice, on which the fuel
elements are located, and the bottoms of the horizontal
experimental channels which are located in the highdensity neutron flux area. The criteria for an
estimation of the vessel residual life have been
established including: 1) the fast neutron fluence on
the lattice and bottoms; 2) the number of cycles of the
thermal load.
The main factors determining the vessel life are those,
which correspond to the operation conditions, and for
the WWR-M reactor these are the followings:

Other important factor of aging is the cyclic stresses on

the vessel metal caused by the thermal loads, the
mechanical loads on the lattice due to the weight of
the fuel elements and the changes of the hydraulic
pressure due to the pump operation. The water
pressure under lattice is equal to zero when the pumps
are switched on, therefore, the drop of pressure is
equal to P 0.5 kg/cm2 (the water column height in
the vessel). The total weight of all fuel elements is
about 230 kg; the weight of all experimental tools on
the lattice is about 90 kg. The cyclic loads on the lattice
and the bottoms caused by the drop of pressure are
below the destruction limits; and the operational
regime is the low-cycle one. The mechanical stress
concentration on the confined area or on the separate
segment possibly is due to the impact (dynamic) load,
for example, the knock by the overload beam.
However, such knock is impossible at the normal
operation since the fuel elements are placed in the core,
therefore, the access to the lattice and bottoms
becomes unfeasible. The external knock is excluded
too by the technical safety measures (the overload
beam length is limited).
The metal corrosion has an influence on the vessel
aging too. The surface deterioration caused by the
corrosion and erosion is under control by different
methods, namely, the visual inspections, the ultrasonic
measuring of the wall thickness and the investigations
of the reference specimens. As the result, it was
founded that the average corrosion of the vessel and


International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Engineering Volume 4 Issue 1, March 2014

the vessel elements does not exceed 225 m, and the

maximal one is 375 m.
The calculations of the vessel durability have been
performed [INR 2009]. The vessels residual life was
estimated in correspondence with two values:
1) the maximum allowable number of cycles is
equal to 1459 ( the cycle means: the reactor start
the run at the nominal powerthe shutdown);
2) the neutron fluence: at the bottoms no more
than 1.5331026 n/m2; at the lattice - no more
than 0.2091026 n/m2.
The actual data at the end of 2012 are following: the
number of cycles is 1186; the neutron fluence: at the
bottoms 1.121026 n/m2, at the lattice - 0.16431026
n/m2; thus the differences between the calculated and
actual values are equal to 273 cycles, 0.4131026 and
0.04471026 n/m2 for the bottoms and the lattice,
respectively. It is possible to estimate the reactor
running time till the totality of the calculated values:
the maximal fast neutron flux is equal to 4.81013
n/cm2s and 5.21012 n/cm2s for the bottoms and the
lattice, respectively; the average time of one cycle is
about 110 hours; hence, Tcycle=30030 h, Tlattice=23878 h
and Tbottoms = 23900 h. This means that at the annual
running time of 3000-4000 h, the reactor can be in
operation no more than 6-7 years at the condition that
none of the mentioned values cannot be depleted early.
Primary Circuit Conditions
Several components of the primary circuit (Fig. 4) are
in operation without replacement since 1960, namely:

the part of pipe-lines: two adjoints made of

SAV-1 from the flange in the reactor bottom till
the stop valve;


2 outlet line; 3 - valve gate on the water cleaning line; 4 inlet line;
6 brick wall in the niche passage.

Necessary Prerequisites for Renovation

the part of pipe-lines made of the stainless steel

from the stop gate till the junction with the
new pipe-lines;

five pumps;

16 stop valves, part of them equipped by the

electric drives.

There are two prerequisites influencing strongly the

technically sound approach for the reactor renovation,
namely, the technical feasibility of the vessel extraction
without unnecessary demolition of the existing
building constructions and the technical conditions of
the reactor building.

Now the pumps of such type are not produced. These

pumps were produced in 1957 in accordance with
special design for the research reactor; the technical
parameters: material stainless steel, output 340-400
m3/h, produced pressure 32-25 m of water column.
The size m, the weigh 840 kg. The
pumps of such specifications can be produced now by
the special request.

The vessel extraction is a challenging task due to high

radiation levels from the neutron-activated inner parts
of the reactor. This task requires detailed planning in
order to reduce the exposure for the dismantling staff
to the lowest reasonable achievable. The spatial
distribution of the -radiation fields together with the
estimated working hours in different radiation fields
will determine the exposure of workers.


International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Engineering Volume 4 Issue 1, March 2014

Recently, the Decommissioning Program approved by

the regulatory body is based on the plans for the
further use of the reactor site and determines the
immediate dismantling as optimal decommissioning
strategy and provides the basis for the safe, timely and
cost-effective decommissioning (Lobach 2010). The
general dismantling strategy consists of the following:
a) the dismantling will be carried out from top to
bottom for preservation of stability; b) the
dismantling and removal of the separate bulky
elements should be performed as whole pieces,
without the preliminary segmentation; c) the
subsequent segmentation of such elements, if
necessary. Analysis of the technical tasks has shown
that the reactor vessel removal should be considered
as the key element in the sequence of dismantling
works and, therefore, the separate design for the
reactor vessel extraction was developed (Lobach 2013).
The activity distribution in the different areas of the
reactor was based on both measured and calculated
activity values; there was a considerable uncertainty
(50-200%) on the characterization of the activity
distribution. The estimation of collective radiation
dose to complete the vessel removal is about 8540
man-Sv. This assessment was performed while
taking into consideration the worst estimates
regarding maximum dose rates, maximum working
time and minimum distance from the source. In
practice, the reactor staff should complete the
particular works in less time and larger distances than
the estimated ones, thus minimizing occupational
exposure in accordance with the ALARA principle.
Corresponding to the requirements of industrial
construction standards as well as the normative
documents on nuclear and radiation safety which
determine the provision of the solidity, the bearing
capacity, the operational integrity and the
serviceability of the nuclear installation buildings, the
technical conditions of the reactor buildings are
estimated as normal or satisfactory. All the
buildings and constructions can be exploited without
any restrictions. The detected damages cant be the
result of the building solidity reduction and doesnt
have any influence on their safe exploiting.
Nevertheless, in long-term projection, they will create
a negative after-effects resulting in the accelerated loss
of the building exploitative properties due to the
corrosion-erosive processes. The repair-and-renewal
operations and preventive measures should be
executed for the detected damages. Then the
evaluation of the building technical conditions must

be improved, namely, from satisfactory to normal.

Renovation Sequence
Now the WWR-M reactor is a reliable operational
nuclear installation. Almost all reactor systems crucial
for the safe operation were modernized or replaced
during the reactor operation time. The most crucial
elements are the reactor vessel with the internals and
the primary circuit pipe-lines, which were not
replaced in 1989, while other systems and elements
can be replaced by new ones during the repair services.
Previously, the goal was the reactor operation till 2015,
but now this timeframe is reconsidered towards the
further extension. The present technical condition of
the reactor allows its safe operation within the
next few years only, hence the planning and
implementation of the full-scale renovation is
becoming an actual task.
The key component of the installation is the reactor
vessel. This is the only one component for which the
life-time extension will be impossible by means of the
technical maintenance or repairs. The reactor pressure
vessel (RPV) is the only key component that can not be
replaced in nuclear power plants and thereupon the
lifetime of NPPs dependent heavily on the life of RPV.
Unlike NPPs, there is a technical possibility to replace
the vessel of a research reactor. Therefore, the only
way to continue the research reactor operation is the
vessel replacement. This task is very complicated from
the technical point of view, but it can be solved.
Moreover, other renovation works will be
unreasonable without finding solution for removal
and replacement of the reactor vessel.
Considering the current and predictable status of the
reactor vessel conditions as well as the conditions of
the primary circuit components and accounting the
necessary prerequisites, the concept of the reactor
renovation foresees a set of self-consistent and costeffective works aimed on the vessel replacement. The
available foreign experience for the vessel replacement
at reactors of similar type was used for selection and
development of the technologically sound approach
for the reactor renovation (Tozser 2009).
The acting Ukrainian legislation defines the
requirements of the technical solutions and the
sequence of implementation for the modernization or
renovation of the nuclear installations, namely, the
concept development, the designing and manufacturing, the assembling and testing, the commissioning.
The Safety analysis report for the modified installation

International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Engineering Volume 4 Issue 1, March 2014

should demonstrate that the modernization does not

decrease the safety level. The compliance of
modernization to the established safety norms and
regulations at all operational regimes is foreseen by
the design (IAEA 1994).
The concept of the reactor renovation consists of the

during the reactor operation, the cycle of

designing works is carried out aimed on the
reactor renovation including the reasoning of
safety of the selected technical solutions;

the renovation design is co-coordinated and

approved by the regulatory body;

new equipment is manufactured and gathered

at the reactor site;

after the reactor shutdown, the set of decontamination and dismantling works is carried

new equipment is assembled and tested;

the reactor is re-started.

Such approach, in spite of some inconvenience due to

performance of works at the activated equipment, has
undoubted positive characteristics:

the minimal time of the reactor downtime; in

accordance with the available experience of
similar works, the modernization can be
implemented within one year t;
the radioactive waste volumes will be
significantly smaller in comparison with the
full-scale decommissioning;

the need of new land area is not necessary;

the financial assets for the reactor modernization will be several times lower than for the

the availability of utilize the skilled reactor


The WWR-M reactor has safely operated for more than
five decades. It is the unique research installation in
the country due to its operational technical parameters
and high-skilled staff. The further reactor operation is
possible only during the limited time due to the
restricted residual life of the reactor vessel. Therefore,
a plan for the reactor renovation is necessary by now
in order to continue the safe operation and the
effective utilization. At an early planning stage, the
renovation concept is proposed, where the key


element is the reactor vessel replacement. The

technical feasibility of the vessel extraction without
unnecessary demolition of the existing building
constructions has been analyzed and its practicability
has been recognized. In that way, the renovation
concept is based on the technical solutions, which will
guarantee the maintaining of the reactor operational
parameters at the proper level and the safety level in
accordance with the national legislation and the
international recommendations. The implementation
of the proposed renovation for the reactor together
with the past upgrading of the reactor systems will
allow its qualitative changes and provide the
sustainable safe reactor operation at least during the
next 40-50 years.







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