Defuelling complete at Obninsk

04 July 2008

Obninsk in 1964 (RIA Novosti) 














The Obninsk control room in 1964 (Image: RIA Novosti)

Defuelling is complete at Obninsk, the world's first nuclear power plant, which is now a museum and a monument to science and technology.


The last elements of used nuclear fuel have been removed from the Atom Mirny (Peaceful Atom) reactor in the Russian scientific town of Obninsk, marking the end of a significant stage of decommissioning.


The highly radioactive used fuel was packaged for export and interim storage and taken from the reactor hall while veterans from the plant's history looked on. The operation was carried out one day before the reactor's 54th anniversary of first operation.


The 5 MWe water-cooled graphite moderated prototype reactor unit began operation on 27 June 1954 using a second-hand steam turbine. It supplied electricity to Obninsk, a closed science city set up during the Soviet Era for nuclear research.


Atom Mirny was the first power reactor to supply electricity across a conventional transmission grid. It came after the EBR-1 unit in Idaho, USA lit light bulbs using its 100 kW output in 1951 and before the first full-scale nuclear power plant, the UK's Calder Hall, which provided 50 MWe to the grid in 1956. The first commercial nuclear power plant, the 60 MWe Shippingport unit in the USA, came one year later in 1957.


Atom Mirny was shut down on 29 April 2002 and has since been monitored while serving as something of a museum. The reactor building itself is unlikely to be removed entirely. It is small and the facility overall has already been declared an outstanding monument of science and technology.