Reload MOX fuel ready for BN-800 fast reactor

23 July 2020

The manufacture of the first full reload batch of uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for unit 4 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Russia has been completed by the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) in Zheleznogorsk, in the Krasnoyarsk region. The 169 fuel assemblies have been accepted by operator Rosenergoatom, and its authorised representative VPO ZAES, which has confirmed the consignment is ready for shipment.

A MOX fuel assembly for the BN-800 fast reactor (Image: TVEL)

TVEL, the fuel manufacturer subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, will supply the fresh MOX fuel for Beloyarsk 4, providing the shipments throughout the rest of this year. The refueling at the 789 MWe BN-800 reactor is scheduled for January 2021. The shift towards fully loading the BN-800 core with MOX fuel is scheduled for completion in early 2022, TVEL said.

The BN-800 reactor was initially launched with a hybrid core, partially loaded with uranium fuel produced by Elemash, TVEL's fabrication facility in Elektrostal in the Moscow region, and partially with experimental MOX fuel bundles manufactured at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region. MCC started serial batch-production of MOX fuel in late 2018. The first serial batch of 18 MOX fuel assemblies was loaded into the reactor's core in late-2019, and the rest of the fresh fuel were bundles with enriched uranium.

"Starting from the nearest refueling, the BN-800 core will be loaded with fresh MOX fuel," said Alexander Ugryumov, vice-president for research and development at TVEL. "At the same time, TVEL together with the Mining and Chemical Combine, will continue development of MOX fuel fabrication technology."

MCC's MOX fuel production line - located in a mine 200 metres underground - was built as part of Russia's 'Proryv', or Breakthrough, project to enable a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The ultimate aim is to eliminate production of radioactive waste from nuclear power generation.

The BN-800 reactor was brought to minimum controlled power for the first time in June 2014, at which time commercial operation was planned for the end of that year. However, in December 2014 operator Rosenergoatom announced that nuclear fuel for the unit would first be developed further. It was brought again to the minimum controlled power level in August 2015, and again in November 2015, eventually being connected to the grid on 10 December 2015. The 789 MWe reactor entered commercial operation on 31 October 2016.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News