Russia’s BN-800 fast reactor undergoes first full refueling with mixed oxide fuel – KBC

The No. 4 power plant of the Belojarsk nuclear power plant with the BN-800 reactor was connected to the power grid and started up again after the planned maintenance was completed.

For the first time, the refueling was carried out with uranium-plutonium fuel only. The first batch of 18 MOX fuel assemblies was loaded into the reactor core in January 2020, and now 160 assemblies with more fresh MOX fuel have been added (replacing the assemblies with enriched uranium). The BN-800 core is now one-third filled with innovative fuel. From now on only MOX fuel is loaded into this reactor.

“The Belojarsk NPP has come one step closer to realizing the strategic goal of developing the nuclear industry – the new technological platform based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle. This means that by using MOX fuel, the isotope of uranium, which is not currently used in the production of fuels, can be included and the raw material supply of the nuclear power industry can be expanded. In addition, the BN-800 reactor can reuse spent fuel elements from other NPPs and minimize radioactive waste by “post-burning” long-lived isotopes from them. Taking into account the planned speed, we can switch to a core with a full charge of MOX fuel as early as 2022, ”commented Ivan Sidorov, Director of the Belojarsk NPP.

The fuel elements were manufactured in the mining and chemical combine (MCC, Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk region). MOX fuel pellets are different from traditional enriched uranium nuclear fuels and are based on the mixture of nuclear fuel cycle derivatives such as a plutonia oxide grown in commercial reactors and a depleted uranium oxide derived from the defluorination of depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the so-called secondary residues Uranium enrichment plants.

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“In parallel to the loading of the BN-800 core with MOX fuel, the team of Rosatom specialists is further developing the technologies for such fuel production at the MCC location. In particular, the production of fresh high-background plutonium fuel extracted from the irradiated fuel of VVER reactors was mastered. All technological processes are fully automatic and are carried out without the presence of employees in the vicinity. The first 20 MOX assemblies with high background fuel have already been manufactured, have passed approval and are due to be loaded in 2022. Advanced technologies for the recycling of fissile materials and the recovery of nuclear fuels will in the future enable the processing of irradiated fuel instead of storage and reduce the amount of waste accumulated, “said Alexander Ugryumov, Vice President Research, Development and Quality at TVEL JSC.

The industrial production of MOX fuel started at the end of 2018 at the FSUE MCC site. In order to create this unique production, a broad industrial collaboration was organized under the coordination and scientific direction of the Fuel Company of Rosatom TVEL, which also acts as the supplier of MOX-TVS for the Beloyarsk NPP. When the BN-800 reactor was started, a hybrid core was initially formed, partly with uranium fuel from the MSZ PJSC (Elektrostal, Moscow region) and partly with experimental MOX-FAs from the Scientific Research Institute for Nuclear Reactors (St. Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region).

Series production of MOX fuel began at the end of 2018 at the site of the mining and chemical combine. The introduction of this unique, highly automated production hall was due to the broad cooperation of Russian companies in the nuclear industry with the coordinating role of TVEL Fuel Company, which is also the official supplier of MOX fuel for the Beloyarsk NPP.

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