A new joint venture aims to commercialize Russian technology for small lead-cooled fast reactors.
The 50/50 venture was established on 25 December 2009 by state nuclear corporation Rosatom and En+, the energy arm of the Basic Element Group set up to manage its companies in aluminium, electric power, oil and ore processing. It will be named AKME Engineering.
A joint statement said they will "design and produce a prototype 100 MWe lead-bismuth fast reactor with a view to commercialize the technology." The SVBR-100 design favoured by the joint venture has been under slow development for many years, based on a reactor already used to power seven military submarines. A prototype is required to prove design improvements since marine use and this should be ready by 2019.
Small reactors are seen as a major gap in nuclear technology, which generally can now only be deployed at a large scale - and usually by major power companies only. Small reactors with long operational periods between refuelling could support remote communities or be sited to directly provide heat and power to industrial facilities. They can also be used in groups of up to 16 to create a larger power plant step by step. Russia is already building two 'floating nuclear power plants' each featuring two reactors based on icebreaker models.
The companies' statement said their initial estimates show that large-scale production of SVBR-100s could bring down costs to the same level as for coal-fired generation. En+ Group CEO Vladislav Soloviev said "We believe that the development of the nuclear power industry is one of the most promising ways to meet the rising demand for energy with the lowest environmental impact."
Deputy director of Rosatom Petr Schedrovitsky said, "We expect the government to provide strong support... It will be put on the list of projects under the aegis of the President's Commission for Long-Term Development."
The name SVBR-100 comes from the Russian 'Svintsovo-Vismutovyi Bystryi Reaktor' which means 'lead-bismuth fast reactor' and the electric generating capacity, 100 MWe.
It uses chemically inert heavy liquid metal coolant in a primary circuit entirely integrated into the reactor pressure vessel. The coolant increases from 345 °C to 495 °C on passage through the reactor core and this heat is transferred to a secondary circuit and used to drive a steam turbine. From a gross thermal power of 280 MWt the net output would be 100 MWe, although smaller models are also on the drawing board and the original submarine version produced 155 MWt.
The reactor unit would be factory assembled and shipped to site for installation inside a tank of water that would provide passive heat removal and radiation shielding. Uranium oxide enriched to 16.5% uranium-235 would be one fuelling option. Reloads would only be carried out every seven to eight years.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News