In transition to hydrogen: Tatarstan to return to nuclear power after 2030

The government of Tatarstan may reconsider the refusal to build a nuclear power plant on the territory of the republic. Rosatom State Corporation is studying the possibility of placing the first nuclear power engineering plant (NPP) for hydrogen production here, as it sees Tatarstan petrochemistry as one of the major consumers of hydrogen energy. This was stated by the first deputy director of the OBKM Afrikantov JSC, Vitaly Petrunin, at a meeting of the board of directors of Tatneftekhiminvest-holding JSC. “We need to move in this direction," President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov replied, supporting the creation of a working group to assess the effectiveness of an investment project to create a nuclear power facility.

A chance to revive peaceful atom

The nuclear power industry has received a new chance to revive in Tatarstan, but already with the suggestion of Rosatom federal state corporation. By 2030, the state corporation plans to complete the preparation of the first large-scale project for the production of hydrogen at a nuclear power engineering plant (NPEP).

“Now we are being at a stage that we need to choose a site for this station," Vitaly Petrunin, the first deputy director of Afrikantov OBKM JSC (Rosatom's head research and design centre in Nizhny Novgorod), announced the purpose of his visit to Kazan.

On 31 January, at the meeting of the Tatneftekhiminvest-holding board of directors, he presented a general picture of the future NPEP, which will become one of the first nuclear power facilities for the combined production of hydrogen and atomic energy.

4 blocks of 100 thousand tonnes of hydrogen each

According to him, the nuclear power plant is based on the technology of methane conversion, which will take place in a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. NPEP is built on a modular principle — the maximum will consist of 4 blocks. The capacity of each is 100 thousand tonnes. Depending on the need, the production of hydrogen can be varied: putting in or putting out of operation. At its peak, the design capacity is 400 thousand tonnes annually with Co2 capture, said Vitaly Petrunin.

Obtaining hydrogen by converting methane is “not a new topic," he reminded. According to him, this technology was worked on in the late 1980s. For example, in 1989, the decree was signed on the construction of nuclear power plants for the production of ammonia, and then Dmitrovgrad and Nizhnekamsk were considered as possible locations for their location. However, with the collapse of the USSR, the projects were buried.

Meanwhile, in the world, the search for technology to produce hydrogen did not stop. Last year, China launched two reactors with a capacity of 250 MW to produce thermal energy, and in the future — to produce hydrogen.

Change of priorities

This year, Rosatom is forced to radically change the feasibility study for the production of pure (green) hydrogen. “Initially, the technical requirements were based on the orientation towards the export of hydrogen to the West. But after the well-known events, we are now revising the concept," said Vitaly Petrunin. According to him, the priority is the domestic market. This means that the emphasis is on the production of a wide range of products for petrochemistry (ammonia, methanol, urea). According to him, it is currently planned to launch a pilot plant at NPO Luch in the Moscow region. Therefore, it is already necessary to choose a production site, he explained.

In this regard, the author-developer of the project offers Tatarstan to participate in cooperation in the adjustment of the project. “We have analysed many regions, we are very interested in the territory of Tatarstan. We want to invite enterprises of the republic to cooperate," Petrunin said.

The president of Tatarstan responded approvingly to this initiative. “We raised this topic more than ten years ago," he agreed. “We have big plans. Foreigners have limited technology to us. If we have our own technologies... We need to move in this direction.”

“If we had a nuclear power plant, we would be a different region in terms of energy efficiency”

Vitaly Petrunin explained that NPEP is not a repeat of the project of the Tatar nuclear power plant, the construction of which was stopped in the 1990s. “Then it was intended exclusively for energy generation, it had to have reactor units — water-to-water. There are no plans for it yet, but in the future Rosatom does not discount this site. Novovoronezh, Kursk, and Balakovo nuclear power plants are currently under construction. A similar type of station should be built in Tatarstan," he said.

“The safety of the new station meets all the most modern criteria. According to international standards, it belongs to the fourth generation stations, that is, it has the highest degree of safety," he assured.

“A lot of hydrogen is already produced in Tatarstan to produce high-tech fuels," Professor, head of the Department of Nuclear and Thermal Power Plants KGEU Natalia Chichirova told Realnoe Vremya. “Here we saw a project with a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, which has been developed for a long time by the team of the OKBM Afrikantov JSC. His ideology is to get electricity, and on the other — to create a high temperature to save methane consumption in the production of hydrogen. Only electricity was to be produced at the Kama NPP. It was supposed to build four units with water-to-water power reactors of 1000 MW each — this is similar to the Balakovo NPP. But after Chernobyl, the construction of the nuclear power plant in Kamsky Polyany was unreasonably stopped. If we had a nuclear power plant, we would be a different region in terms of energy efficiency. We would not have to introduce many combined-cycle gas technologies in the energy sector that require the use of foreign gas turbines. And 1200 MW reactors for nuclear power plants are manufactured in Russia, which facilitates the implementation of THESE projects. I believe that a grave mistake was made with the freezing of the Kama NPP. But there is a very interesting project ahead. I think his chances are high, and we are for nuclear power.

Luiza Ignatyeva