MOSCOW, November 17 Power unit No. 4 with the BN-800 fast neutron reactor at the Beloyarsk NPP reaches full capacity (Zarechny, Sverdlovsk region), entirely loaded with innovative industrial nuclear uranium-plutonium MOX fuel, means that Russia has taken another important step in mastering the nuclear energy technologies of the future, said Alexander Uvarov, editor-in-chief of the AtomInfo.ru portal.
Rosatom reported the day before that power unit No. 4 with the BN-800 reactor was brought to full power for the first time, being fully loaded with industrial MOX fuel (from the English mixed-oxide fuel).
“The completion of work on the complete conversion of the BN-800 reactor to industrial uranium-plutonium MOX fuel is another important step towards building in Russia a two-component nuclear power industry with a closed nuclear fuel cycle. Plutonium, which accumulates in the nuclear fuel of light water VVER reactors, can now be will be used in the manufacture of fuel for the BN-800, and not just stored in warehouses,” Uvarov said.
“Our predecessors in the USSR solved the first of many problems on the way to closing the nuclear fuel cycle, namely, they developed and mastered the technologies of fast reactors with sodium coolant (BN reactors). In turn, Rosatom has now solved the second problem – developed and mastered industrial MOX fuel technology,” the expert added.
But it’s too early to rest on our laurels, Uvarov noted.
““The next step should be the construction of commercial fast reactors BN-1200M and BR-1200, designs for which are already being developed at Rosatom, as well as solving the problem of multiple passage of plutonium through nuclear reactors,” the agency’s interlocutor said.
The Russian nuclear industry is mastering the technologies necessary for the transition to a competitive two-component energy system based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle (CNFC). The point is to “combine” the operation of traditional VVER thermal neutron power reactors with fast neutron reactors.
The logic of a two-component nuclear power system is based on the use of plutonium separated from spent nuclear fuel (SNF) of VVER reactors for the manufacture of fuel for fast neutron reactors and the possibility of using plutonium from SNF of “fast” reactors for the manufacture of MOX fuel for VVER plants.
Thanks to the CNFC, the reproduction of nuclear fuel, plutonium, will expand, and the fuel base of nuclear energy will significantly increase, eliminating the need to mine natural uranium in large volumes. It will also be possible to reduce the amount and biological danger of radioactive waste remaining after the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) – the most dangerous radionuclides are planned to be “burned out” in fast neutron reactors. In this way, it will be possible, as nuclear scientists figuratively say, to “remove two key thorns” of the current nuclear energy industry, related to the limited reserves of natural uranium and the deferred problem of spent nuclear fuel.
Unit No. 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP with a fast neutron reactor BN-800 with an installed electrical power of more than 800 MW with a liquid metal coolant sodium, the commercial operation of which began in 2016, is necessary for testing a number of technologies for closing the nuclear fuel cycle, and above all for demonstrating operation at an industrial mixed oxide uranium-plutonium MOX fuel. This fuel is produced at the Rosatom enterprise “Mining and Chemical Combine” (Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory).
Further development of the technology of “fast” sodium reactors was the development of the main high-power commercial power unit of 1200 MW. The construction of a new power unit No. 5 of the Beloyarsk NPP with a BN-1200M reactor is provided for by the general layout of electric power facilities in the Russian Federation until 2035.