Fuel load for Chinese fast reactor dispatched from Russia

04 January 2023

Rosatom's TVEL fuel company has dispatched all shipments to China scheduled for 2022 in order to supply the first core loading of the CFR-600 sodium-cooled pool-type fast-neutron reactor at Xiapu in China's Fujian province.

A shipment of the CFR-600 fuel leaves the Elemash plant (Image: Rosatom)

In total, three batches of fuel - including all fuel assemblies for the first core loading as well as the bundles for the first refueling - have been transported by rail from the Elemash Machine-Building Plant in Elektrostal since late-September. In addition, reactor control and protection assemblies have been delivered to China by air.

The production of CFR-600 uranium fuel was established at the Elemash plant in 2021. For this purpose, the site for the fabrication of fuel assemblies for fast reactors was modernised at the enterprise, unique equipment was developed and installed. At the end of 2021, assemblies of the control and protection system were sent to the customer for testing the reactor simulation zone.

CFR-600 fuel elements (Image: Rosatom)

"TVEL Fuel Company has fully and on time accomplished all obligations as part of the CFR-600 project," said Oleg Grigoriyev, Senior Vice President for Commerce and International Business at TVEL. "This is another important area of ​​our cooperation in addition to fuel supplies for VVER reactors at the Tianwan nuclear power plant, development of VVER fuel fabrication at the Yibin plant, as well as fuel supplies for China's first experimental fast reactor CEFR."

The CFR-600 fuel contract was signed in compliance with the agreement between the Russian and Chinese governments. It is a part of a large-scale programme of bilateral cooperation in the nuclear industry for the decades ahead. In particular, the agreement covers construction of VVER-1200 reactors at the Tianwan and Xudabao sites in China. The package of intergovernmental documents and framework contracts for these projects was signed in 2018.

Construction of unit 1 of the Xiapu fast reactor demonstration project began in 2017. It is part of China's plan to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle. China National Nuclear Corporation announced in December 2020 that construction work had begun on a second unit at the plant.

The aim has been for the first unit to be grid connected around 2023. The reactors will be 1500 MWt, 600 MWe, with 41% thermal efficiency, using mixed-oxide fuel with 100 GWd/t burn-up, and with two sodium coolant loops producing steam at 480°C. Later fuel will be metal with burn-up of 100-120 GWd/t. Breeding ratio is about 1.1, design operational lifetime 40 years. The design has active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

"With the launch of the first CFR-600 power unit, the Xiapu plant in Fujian Province will become the only nuclear power plant outside of Russia with a large-capacity 'fast' reactor," Rosatom noted.

In addition to the reactor in China, there are BN-600 and BN-800 sodium-cooled fast reactors at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Urals region of Russia.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News