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Ignalina Operating HistoryThe two 1,500-MW units at Ignalina produce about 2,600 MW (net) of electricity, but the plant has the capacity to produce even more power, but safety concerns and public reaction to the Chornobyl accident has prompted authorities to operate the plant below its full capacity.
Lithuania assumed ownership of the plant in August 1991 and set up its own inspectorate, VATESI to oversee the plant. Today, even though the plant's operators are ethnic Russians, most have agreed to stay on and become Lithuanian citizens.
Since Lithuanian gained its independence, the growing cost of imported fossil fuels, mainly from Russia, has made Ignalina almost 50% cheaper than other power sources. By 1993, Lithuania had set a world record for the proportion of nuclear- generated electricity produced in a single nation, with nuclear energy providing 88% of its power, up from 60% in 1991.
In 1994, Lithuania released a long-term energy plan that envisioned upgrading the Ignalina plant and supplementing it with gas-fired plants. The plan, developed with Sweden's Vattenfall AB and Finland's IVO, projected that:
The plan calls for establishing a supply system over the Baltic region and firm long-range import/export arrangements to finance Ignalina's improvement programs.
Swedish sources speculated that a faulty weld led to the release of contaminated water at Ignalina in January 1994, an event that forced one unit to shut down.
Lithuanian authorities reported an energy shortage later in January 1994 after operators shut down Ignalina Unit 1 following the failure of control board instrumentation. The event was classified as Level 0 on the IAEA's International Nuclear Event Scale.
Lithuania classified an incident that occurred on July 11, 1994, as an IAEA Level 1 event. Engineers had incorrectly installed a new switch used to move control rods in and out of the reactor. Operators discovered the error when testing the new switch, which they then successfully replaced.
In November 1994, authorities shut down both Ignalina units in response to a terrorist threat. Lithuania's prime minister asked Swedish authorities for help in searching the plant because they were well-acquainted with areas most vulnerable to attack.
Both units returned to service after searches revealed no bombs. Following the incident, Lithuanian authorities launched a crash program to improve plant security. Their first steps included the procurement of new equipment, such as infrared binoculars for guards. Other actions included the creation of three working groups to improve security measures. The groups include representatives from the Lithuanian police, the defense ministry, the energy ministry, and the environment ministry. The groups will write bid specifications and purchase relevant equipment, train personnel in security and physical protection, write complete instructions for how to search the plant in the event of further bomb threats, and train personnel to participate in such searches. In addition, Lithuanian regulators introduced a computerized accounting system for fuel at the plant and changed personnel routines.
In August 1995, a crane loading an emergency sealing plug into a refueling machine during a routine maintenance outage became entangled with the electric feed cable of another crane, causing a cut in the power supply. The incident was provisionally classified as Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
In November 1995, fast-acting valves between the emergency core cooling pressurized tanks and the reactor at Unit 2 spontaneously opened and approximately 12 tons of water were released. An operator noticed that the valves had opened and shut them. The incident was classified as Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale .
Source: Source Book: Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plants in Russia, Ukrane, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, and Bulgaria, 4th edition. Nuclear Energy Institute. 1996. (online)
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