Launch procedures began at the newest Unit 1 of Leningrad NPP-2 (Sosnovy Bor, JSC “Concern Rosenergoatom” branch, part of ROSATOM’s leading Electric Energy Division). At 10:33 on December 8, 2017, Leningrad NPP operating personnel successfully loaded the first of the 163 fuel assemblies with fresh nuclear fuel, giving start to the first criticality program. 
This is the second tremendous achievement for both the Russian and the global nuclear industry to happen this week — on December 6, the first criticality program started at Unit 4 of the Rostov NPP. For the first time in the history of contemporary Russia, first criticality programs were launched at two of the most modern units within one week.
General Director of JSC “Concern Rosenergoatom” Andrey Petrov, General Director of JSC “Concern TITAN-2” Grigoriy Naginskiy and Director of Leningrad NPP Vladimir Pereguda were present at launch procedures. 
According to Andrey Petrov, the beginning of operations on the physical start-up actually means that all works related to the construction stage of Unit 1 of LNPP-2 have been completed. "All overload systems are now working in automatic mode, full availability to perform these operations is provided in conformity with all safety requirements. Within 30 days, the reactor facility will be ready to reach the minimum controlled power level. We will conduct all the necessary experiments and launch operations at the reactor facility in accordance with the phased program. The next step is the power start-up, which will begin next year", he said.
A. Petrov also stressed that a timely launch became possible due to the introduction of a unique method of managing the building progress. “LNPP-2 is the largest of the seven pilot sites of Rosatom, where the so-called "project management" method is in place. Heads of the Concern, LNPP, design and project development organizations, equipment suppliers and the general contractor worked non-stop in a single project office. The management tools used proved their effectiveness, allowing to significantly increase the construction rate and meet the set deadlines and costs. This positive experience will soon be replicated to other Russian NPPs under construction, in particular, in the construction of Unit 2 of Novovoronezh NPP-2. The decision has already been made at the Concern's management level", the Head of Rosenergoatom said.
In his turn, Leningrad NPP director Vladimir Pereguda, highly appraising the contribution of each of the participants in the construction of Unit 1, said: "The new power units of Leningrad NPP-2 provide a solution to the most important task for the entire region, namely the replacement of the existing capacities of Leningrad NPP. The first unit with the RBMK reactor is planned to be stopped as early as next year, in 2018. Therefore, for the Leningrad region, the synchronization of the processes of commissioning and decommissioning of units is a vital process ensuring energy and economic stability".
The president of the ASE Group Valery Limarenko said: "Today began the first criticality program at Unit 1 of Leningrad nuclear power plant-2 which belongs to the latest Generation III+. This is a big victory for the whole industry and for our engineering division. We are proud that this is the second innovative unit launched, created by the work and talent of our designers. This time, it is above all the merit of the specialists of St. Petersburg’s ATOMPROEKT as the general designer. And this gives us the right to speak of serial implementation of Rosatom's projects. Through our work, we once again confirm the leadership of Russian technologies in the world market of NPP construction. The importance of this event also lies in the fact that the first power unit of Leningrad NPP-2 is referential for international projects of ROSATOM in various countries of the world".
All 163 fuel assemblies are to be loaded in the reactor of Unit 1 of LNPP-2 by the end of December 2017. The decisive stage of launch operations – the power start-up and the delivery of the first electricity to consumers – will begin in early 2018. The commissioning of Unit 1 of Leningrad NPP-2 is expected in 2018. It will mean that the Generation III+ unit fleet of Rosenergoatom Concern will expand to two units (including Unit 1 of Novovoronezh-2).
For the reference:
The first criticality start-up is one of the key stages of putting a power unit into operation, the main task of which is to confirm that the commissioned power unit will operate reliably and safely at design parameters during its entire service life.
Today the Leningrad NPP is the largest producer of electricity in Northwest Russia. The station produces about 50% of the electricity generated in the region. Commissioning of new units of Leningrad NPP-2 will allow to maintain the production volume, including the one for the phased replacement of the existing facilities of Leningrad NPP stage 1 and to provide electricity totaling over 30 billion kWh in year thanks to four of the newest power units with VVER-1200 reactors.
Innovative and the most powerful power units to date with pressurized water reactors VVER-1200 that are being built at Leningrad NPP-2 belong to the latest III+ generation. They combine the most advanced achievements and developments that meet all post-Fukushima requirements. These units are unique and have no analogues in the world. The first similar unit was launched at the end of 2016 at Novovoronezh NPP-2 (Novovoronezh).
In comparison with traditional power units of the same type, the VVER-1200 project has a number of advantages that significantly enhance its economic characteristics and safety. Thus, the capacity of the reactor plant compared to the previous generation (VVER-1000) increased by 20%, the number of personnel was reduced by 30-40%, the design life of the main equipment was doubled and is now 60 years with the possibility of extending for another 20 years.
The main design feature of the VVER-1200 project is a unique combination of active and passive safety systems, which make the power plant as resilient to external and internal influences as possible. In particular, the VVER-1200 power unit includes a "core catcher" - the device for the localization of the core melt, the passive heat removal system (PHRS) designed to provide long-term heat removal to the atmosphere from the reactor core in the absence of electricity supply and others. 

Source: Press Service of Rosenergoatom Concern JSC