Beloyarsk 4 criticality soon

30 December 2013

Commissioning is about to start at Russia's forthcoming fast reactor, Beloyarsk 4. After a lengthy construction period, engineers are preparing for criticality in April 2014.

The unit will be a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design, fuelled by a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. The electricity will go to the central Sverdlovsk region of Russia, where regional governor Yevgeny Kuyzashev said it would support industrial investment.

The 'physical launch' of the new reactor was permitted by safety regulator Rostekhnadzor on 26 December. This entitled project leader AtomEnergoProekt (Saint Petersburg branch) to firstly load nuclear fuel and begin tests of safety systems. Test operation at the minimum power level is also permitted as a second step, to confirm the proper operation of control systems and instrumentation.

Sodium coolant is already in place and nuclear fuel has been delivered to the site. The steps outlined above should be complete by April 2014, said Rosatom, with commerical operation coming by the end of the year.

Beloyarsk 4 will be the most powerful fast reactor unit in the world at 789 MWe. This exceeds Beloyarsk 3's 560 MWe as well as the 246 MWe of Monju in Japan. France's Super-Phenix was more powerful at 1200 MWe, but this was closed in 1997. Another fast reactor is under construction in India at Kalpakkam which will produce 470 MWe when it starts up, also in 2014.

Beloyarsk 4 was approved in 1983 and construction began in 1986. The project was put on hold and only resumed in 2004.

Russia is planning to construct a larger BN-1200 fast reactor power unit at Beloyarsk to start up by 2020, while cooperating with China to build two BN-800 units there.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News