The Global Energy Prize laureate 2014
LEGEND OF THE NAVY
Ashot Sarkisov and his priceless contribution to enhancing atomic energy safety.
The town of Novovoronezhsk, Voronezh Region of Russia is a special place. It was built near a nuclear power plant. Seven units, different reactors, each having a unit switchboard controlling the facility with two reactor specialists, two turbine specialists and a shift supervisor. All these people train and continuously polish up their skills with a copy of this control board: each switchboard of a reactor is duplicated by a simulator. At such simulators placed at every unit of Novovoronezhskaya NPP, it is possible to organize any disaster here in Voronezh steppe: from a most powerful earthquake to tsunami. Or you can do these two together and see how a shift of five specialists controlling the unit will cope with the emergency situIRINA ation, in order to make sure that whatever happens, the present-day Russian nuclear power plant will remain safe and no nuclear flash will follow. In this case, a negative outcome is not just “another outcome”, but the very best of the possible results. Availability of such training equipment at each NPP unit in this country and the very security and safety of reactors on land and sea have been the life-work of the Global Energy Prize Laureate, RAS Academician and Vice Admiral Ashot Arakelovich Sarkisov. From the very start of his work with nuclear submarines, Sarkisov arrived to the conclusion that unlike other energy sectors, the safety of nuclear energy facilities had to go first and become the fundamental element due to several reasons. First of all, the concentration of energy here is colossal: in terms of heat output, one kilogram of Uramium-235 is more or less equal to a giant troop train with seventy 40t wagonloads of coal. And all of this energy is focused inside a small active zone of the reactor. If something goes wrong, the entire energy will be released as we saw it in Chernobyl. Here is a simple proportion: if an emergency situation occurs, and 1/1000 of the reactor’s load will split before it explodes, this energy will be 100 000 more powerful as compared to the energy contained in a steam boiler of a thermal power plant. Secondly, there is a notion in nuclear energy industry called “prompt criticality”: as long as the controlled chain reaction is under way, everything is fine. The speed of thermal processes is acceptable, control is full. But there is a certain level after which the reaction instantly goes out of control, and nothing can be done with it anymore. A nuclear flash occurs, as it was in Chernobyl. The active zone, the reactor construction and all of its elements are to be organized so that under no circumstances and no conditions this criticality would be exceeded – should it be a crash of a jet plane or an operator’s mistake. it is especially important on board a submarine where it’s impossible to evacuate people anywhere if the safety system collapses. His entire life Ashot Arakelovich has been dealing with exactly this: nuclear safety aspects. He was the first in the world to start developing the theory of emergency and transition modes for nuclear reactors. Before him, no one considered the dynamics of nuclear facilities as a whole. The first nuclear facility onboard